“What are you?”: Addressing Racial Ambiguity Article

Leboeuf, C. (2020). “What are you?”: Addressing Racial Ambiguity . 8(1-2), 292-307. 10.5325/critphilrace.8.1-2.0292

cited authors

  • Leboeuf, C



  • “What are you?” This question, whether explicitly raised by another or implied in his gaze, is one with which many persons perceived to be racially ambiguous struggle. This article centers on encounters with this question. Its aim is twofold: first, to describe the phenomenology of a particular type of racializing encounter, one in which one of the parties is perceived to be racially ambiguous; second, to investigate how these often alienating encounters can be better negotiated. In the course of this investigation, this article examines the addressee's point of view and consider possible responses to the other's question. In addition, it discusses the addresser's perspective, both to probe the curiosity underlying the “What are you?” question and to explore alternatives to it. By describing the phenomenology of these encounters, this article hopes to show that racial ambiguity, as distinct from mixed-race, is a category of lived experience that calls for deeper philosophical scrutiny.

publication date

  • January 1, 2020

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 292

end page

  • 307


  • 8


  • 1-2