Passing: An Alternative History of Identity
Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd
A slave woman in 1840s America dresses as a white disabled man to escape to freedom. A twenty-first-century black rights activist who is white is publicly shamed for inventing an African heritage. A Victorian explorer disguises himself as a Muslim undergoing circumcision to enter Islam's forbidden holy city. A trans girl is forced to take off her dress before school where she's only recognised as a boy. A Palestinian woman acting as a Jewish settler passes through Israeli checkpoints while a Jew befriends Syrians by Arabising his name. All of them have 'passed' performing or claiming an identity that society hasn't assigned them or assumed to be theirs. The word was first popularised in racial terms but the passing phenomenon is as old as human culture--today it's associated with communities or identities from class and gender to religion and sexuality. For as long as we've sought to label each other and ourselves there have been those falling or stepping between the drawn boundaries. Exploring fictional historical and present- day stories including her own Lipika Pelham reflects on passing's innumerable contexts and what they tell us about belonging and identity. Passing is a rich and timely social history of the self.
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