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Visible invisibilities: race, bodies & space in a colour-blind world

posted on 21.02.2017, 02:56 by Kamaloni, Sunshine Mpesalwa Glofa
This thesis explores the lived experience of race in different everyday spaces. It draws on three case studies documented between March 2011 and December 2014 and is grounded in my personal experiences in Melbourne, a city considered one of the most multicultural in Australia. It examines how colour-blindness, a ‘post-racial’ idea that mainly characterises a denial of race, promotes racism through the everyday interactions of bodies in everyday spaces. It argues that colour-blindness takes away our ability to talk back to race and thus perpetuates the continued invisible ways people experience racism today. Colour-blindness explains racism as a personal, individual problem of people who focus on race or “see” colour. Consequently, it obscures acts of embodied racism even as it sustains the visibility and invisibility of particular bodies in particular spaces. The thesis examines the complex relationship between racial visibility and invisibility and how colour-blindness acts as a mechanism by which these two phenomena are produced and maintained. The thesis posits a link between race, bodies and space that uncovers some of the ways race continues to evolve and adapt itself to the present. The spatial framework I propose suggests that colour-blindness, micro-aggressions and new forms and practices of racism, become mapped onto spaces through interactions between bodies within these spaces. This means wherever there are bodies in space, there will be reproductions of racism. The spatial framework further shows how contemporary ideas about race such as colour-blindness, which deny race’s existence or impact, only work to conceal the continuation of racism. The denial of the racist experiences of ordinary individuals in normal day-to-day spaces and situations must be accounted for in theory, as they are critical to understanding how the concept of race maintains its powerful hold on society. This approach is consistent with Feagin and Sikes (1994) and feminist writers like Sara Ahmed, Jackie Stacey, Gargi Bhattacharyya and bell hooks who all approach theory from the sphere of experience and seek to make visible the lived aspects of social, cultural and political ideologies. The thesis argues that the experience of being raced means one is never able to avoid the produced effect of racism no matter how intent is categorised. One of the central problems is that the mobilisation of race in everyday spaces involves the way it is mobilised within those who are raced. It promotes the idea that racism is a problem that is internal rather than generated through interactions between bodies and between bodies and spaces. Understanding the specificity of racism demands that we have a clear awareness of the processes that enable it to remain a problem in the 21st century. My thesis, through the use of a methodology that centres on everyday embodied experience as an epistemological method of extrapolating and explaining the complexity of the importance of knowing race while questioning the viability of racism, addresses the gap in accounting for the continuity of racism. 

Awards: Vice-Chancellor’s Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence in 2015.


Principal supervisor

Daniel Black

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Media, Film and Journalism


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts