Metissage and the fear of contamination

Ann Stoler’s article was a very interesting read as it revealed the double standards that exist in trying to incorporate some metis into the European social contract while denying others because true French blood did not flow in their veins (517). It just seems ludicrous to me that this determination of French-ness is done through the evaluation of a child’s “physical features or race by a medico-legal expert.” So arbitrary factors like skin color, height, the hollow of the cheek etc. of a child, is compared to an ideal French type, and one person determines whether or not he or she is French enough? This doesn’t really make it any different from Alfred Russell Wallace’s scrutiny of the Dyaks and judging them based on a European standard. It is just shocking that scientific racism still exists in this way, even today. And Stoler rightly comes out to say that this urge to keep Manichean boundaries of ruler vs. ruled is really a reflection of a fear of contamination of the basal native milieu and I think that this is still very evident in popular fiction today.

This anxiety surfaces in the Twilight series. In Breaking Dawn, Bella carries Edward’s child, and because the child is a half-human, half-vampire, it is portrayed as uncontrollable (Bella has an unnatural accelerated pregnancy) and outlawed by the Volturi (which is kind of like the Vampire royalty that governs and polices) and the Volturi sets out to destroy the child. It is only when a 150-year-old human-vampire cross breed, Nahuel comes out and proves that his species is no threat to the secret existence of the vampires that the child is spared. I think that both Stoler’s article and Breaking Dawn both show the fundamental fear that the dominant culture have over this seemingly subversive intermixing of races that threaten their position of power. Thankfully, reality (for once) seems pretty hopeful as Singapore is becoming more open towards the idea of interracial marriages. Statistically speaking, the number is increasing. And because I am an eternal optimist, I would like to think that we are embracing difference, embracing the idea of a cosmopolitan Singapore and becoming a melting pot where different races and cultures meet.

One thought on “Metissage and the fear of contamination

  1. nice comparison caroline. foucault once said in the history of sexuality that while the nobility had their blood, the bourgeoisie had the body (in terms of where these two important social elements concentrated their power). blood might be interesting to explore here further…