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Unmasking Racism: Halloween Costuming and Engagement of the Racial Other
Qualitative Sociology
  • Jennifer C. Mueller, Texas A & M University - College Station
  • Danielle Dirks, University of Texas at Austin
  • Leslie H. Picca, University of Dayton
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We explore Halloween as a uniquely constructive space for engaging racial concepts and identities, particularly through ritual costuming. Data were collected using 663 participant observation journals from college students across the U.S. During Halloween, many individuals actively engage the racial other in costuming across racial/ethnic lines. Although some recognize the significance of racial stereotyping in costuming, it is often dismissed as being part of the holiday's social context. We explore the costumes worn, as well as responses to cross-racial costuming, analyzing how “playing” with racialized concepts and making light of them in the “safe” context of Halloween allows students to trivialize and reproduce racial stereotypes while supporting the racial hierarchy. We argue that unlike traditional “rituals of rebellion,” wherein subjugated groups temporarily assume powerful roles, whites contemporarily engage Halloween as a sort of “ritual of rebellion” in response to the seemingly restrictive social context of the post-Civil Rights era, and in a way that ultimately reinforces white dominance.
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The document to be made available for download in compliance with publisher policy on self-archiving is the author's accepted manuscript. Some differences may exist between this version and the version of record, which is available online. Permission documentation is on file.

Peer Reviewed
Citation Information
Jennifer C. Mueller, Danielle Dirks and Leslie H. Picca. "Unmasking Racism: Halloween Costuming and Engagement of the Racial Other" Qualitative Sociology Vol. 30 Iss. 3 (2007)
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