Camille Gear Rich

Angela Harris and the Racial Politics of Masculinity: Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and the Dilemmas of Desiring Whiteness

This Festschrift Essay uses the Trayvon Martincontroversy as an opportunity to reflect on the insights Angela Harris’s scholarship provides about the dialogic relationshipbetween race, masculinity, and the criminal law. After surveying Harris’s contributions to critical race theory, masculinity studies, and feminist legal theory, this Essay distills some of her insights into a “masculinity studies toolkit” that scholars can use to reproduce the kind of nuanced analyses of race and gender Harris called for in much of her work. Harris’sscholarship reminds us that the criminal law creates opportunities for the performances of masculinity, and that race always plays a role in understanding these performances of masculinity. Cases like the Martin controversy further teach us that we must acknowledge the ways in which contemporary, fluid approaches to race create unique tensions between white and minority men as they attempt to lay claim to specific, raced versions of masculinity. This Essay concludes by arguing that Harris’s insights are even more valuable today than when her work was originally published, and the framework she provides remains the best approach to using masculinity studies to analyze contemporary race and gender conflicts.

 

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