Timeline 1900 – 2017

Ambiguous Ethnicity: Interracial Families in London

Ambiguous Ethnicity is a study published in 1981 by Dr Susan Benson on the personal histories and everyday lives of black and white interracial families in Brixton, London.

The study was based on fieldwork conducted for Benson’s PhD in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. The book was described by the publishers, Cambridge University Press, in the following terms: ‘In a society where race is a significant component of social identity and exerts an important influence on social relationships, the problems faced by couples who enter into ‘mixed’ marriages are especially difficult. The book is a study of the personal histories and everyday lives of a small number of interracial families living in and around Brixton, south London, in the early 1970s. Dr Benson sets the circumstances that confront these families within the context of wider British attitudes about race, colour and miscegenation as they developed over time. She argues that couples are obliged to make a continual series of choices between ‘black’ and ‘white’ in the course of their everyday lives. Through a discussion of these choices and of the factors which lead individuals to enter into a marriage which could be regarded with some disapproval, the book explores how people in London thought and felt about race, colour and social identity. It will be of interest to all teachers and students studying race relations, as well as to social and community workers, school teachers and administrators concerned with race relations and the inner city.’