What does it mean to explore the boundaries and the ambiguities surrounding the notion of racial frontiers at a time when mixed race identity is more a norm than an exception? Clearly, the meanings of race and skin colour are mediated by language, religion, nationality and culture. Given the socially constructed character of race and the detrimental effects that these classifications have had on non-white peoples and especially on mixed race persons in the colonies, I would like to argue that a positive reconstruction of mixed race identities needs to be developed in postcolonial cultures.
Edouard Glissant, the Francophone Caribbean poet and writer, says that in today's world ‘métissage’ is operational as a rule. He adds that the ‘single-root’ (racine unique), purist definitions of racial identities have to be necessarily replaced by what he terms as rhizome identities or relational identities. Glissant's theory of cultural creolization (‘métissage’), is not some kind of vague humanism but an attempt to recover concealed histories by establishing a cross-cultural relationship in an egalitarian way:
A l'sé-racine-unique qui était l's, la beauté, la somptuosité, mais aussi le mortuaire des cultures ataviques, nous tendons à substituer, non pas la non-identité, ni l'sé-comme-ça, celle qu's choisit comme on veut, mais ce que j's l'sé relation, l'sé rhizome. C's l'sé ouverte sur l's…je peux changer en échangeant avec l's sans me perdre moi-même.
Instead of single root identities that was the pride, beauty, richness but also the death of atavistic cultures we would like to substitute not non-identities, nor indifferent identities that one chooses according to one's whims but one that I call identity–relation, identity–rhizome. It is the identity that opens on to the Other…I can change by exchanging with another without losing myself.
To Francoise Lionnet, feminist literary critic, renowned for her reading of Francophone women writers of African origin and her work on women's autobiographies, ‘métissage’ is an aesthetic concept to “illustrate the relationship between historical context and individual circumstances, the socio-cultural construction of race and gender and traditional genre theory, the cross-cultural linguistic mechanisms that allow a writer to generate polysemic meanings from deceptively simple or seemingly linear narrative techniques.”