Burke, J. (2015). Colourism as an intra-racial phenomenon: The case of Tanzania. 1-7. Australia: African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific.
Diverse shades of skin tone in Africa are associated with various social meanings and connotations. Colourism incorporates stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination based on skin colour, between and within races, as part of a hierarchical system of privilege and disadvantage structured on the lightness and darkness of someone’s skin. Skin colour often designates racial identity. Colourism is an aspect of racism which usually values lighter skin over darker shades, and reactions to this, such as using skin-lightening products. Most literature on colourism has focused on the experiences of African-Americans and similar majority populations. In order to understand how colourism functions, this paper focuses on intra-racial experiences of colourism in Tanzania as depicted in local media. People with albinism and very light skin due to lack of pigment experience pervasive discrimination and attacks in which their body parts are removed and sold. The difference in treatment indicates complexities related to mystification of albino bodies. Colourism in this extreme form functions along a path of stereotyping, devaluation and questioning of people’s humanity, ascription of supernatural powers and commodification of these powers. The paper argues that although colourism is primarily understood as a social process, it can function as capital and hence underpin economic benefits and disadvantages. Colourism is explored as a phenomenon separate to racism in the case of albinism. The…
Open Access Conference Paper