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How racial matter comes to matter. Animacy, memory work, and childhood dolls

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Dolls have a long history in psychological, literary scholarship and popular culture. Many of these cultural products point to how dolls bring forth imaginaries of race and gender, essentially showing that dolls are racial matters. Dolls, however, are not only figures of representation or identification. Dolls are agential in ways they evoke, trigger, energize, and bring life to racial experiences. In this article, we apply memory work methodology to explore how the analysis of memories of childhood dolls can inform us about formations of race, racialization and whiteness. Applying Mel Y. Chen’s (2012) conceptualization of animacy as an affective- material construction that is non-neutral in relation to animals, humans, and living and dead things, we explore the ways dolls become ‘real and true’ specifically in the ways in which they bring forth how race matters comes to matter as part of gendered subjectivities. Our childhood doll memories, that this article is based upon, cut across different geopolitical and historical contexts -East-Europe, West-Europe and Asia, or more precisely Lithuania, Denmark and Pakistan -and as such carry interesting generational and geopolitical differences and similarities on racialization from the 1970’s to 1990’s
Original languageEnglish
JournalBody & Society
Number of pages23
ISSN1357-034X
Publication statusSubmitted - 2022

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