Shaping and Informing Public Attitudes Towards Racial and Ethnic Mixing and Mixedness in Britain.

Submitting Institution

London South Bank University

Unit of Assessment

Social Work and Social Policy

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

Download original


Summary of the impact

The research into mixed racial people, couples and families has enhanced social awareness, corrected misconceptions and celebrated the heritage of these groups. Impact centres around educating various publics through channels such as a prime time viewing on BBC2. The research has also manifested itself in: (i) a successful on-line resource (Mix-d Museum) in collaboration with the third sector, (ii) materials which have influenced school curricula, and (iii) training resources for teachers. One organisation has presented the materials emanating from the research to over 250 foster carers within a year. The British Academy recognised the research as an exemplar which contributed to the reintroduction of its Small Grant scheme.

Underpinning research

The key research findings underpinning this case study are drawn from a body of research derived from three related research projects undertaken during 2006-2012 and exploring the contemporary and historical experiences of mixed racial, ethnic and faith families in Britain.

1. Parenting `Mixed' Children: negotiating difference and belonging in mixed race, ethnicity and faith families, funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation (£121,846; 2006-8; PI: Rosalind Edwards (Professor of Social Policy at LSBU until 2010, now Southampton University).

Drawing on commissioned quantitative analysis of 2001 Census data (conducted by Darren Smith, Senior Lecturer, University of Brighton), the research demonstrated that mixed racial and ethnic families in Britain are not only to be found in wide-ranging areas throughout the country but also contain a strong middle-class profile, thus substantively challenging existing popular discourse which assumes them to be mainly located in inner-city, working-class locations (1, 3-5). Through qualitative analysis with thirty-five couples and case studies of six children and six grandparents, the research showed that the experiences of mixed racial, ethnic and faith families can be incredibly diverse and multifaceted, raising important implications for existing policy and practice initiatives which often assume a notion of a shared racial, ethnic or mixed faith experience.

2. The Era of Moral Condemnation: Mixed Race People in Britain, 1920-1950, funded by the British Academy, (£4,958; 2007-8; PI: Chamion Caballero (Research Fellow, LSBU); Co-Investigator: Dr Peter Aspinall (Research Fellow, University of Kent).

The research focused on perceptions and experiences of mixed racial and ethnic people and families in early 20th century Britain. It uncovered a wealth of archival material which presented a vigorous and original challenge to existing ideas of the experience of mixed race people during the time period. The research pointed to an overlooked sense of everyday `ordinariness' for many people within this group where many of their assumed difficulties and challenges, such as inherent `marginality' or `confusion', were non-existent or transitory. Where it identified issues, these tended to be related to wider social discourses, policies and practices rather than individual daily lives. The research highlighted a complex and diverse set of experiences for this group and traced how many of the stereotypes that still inform perceptions of mixed race groups today are rooted in the historical constructions (2).

3. `Insiders' or `outsiders'? Lone mothers of children from mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (£99,754, 2009-10: PI: Chamion Caballero, Senior Research Fellow, LSBU).

This project built on pilot findings (funded by LSBU) to explore the everyday experiences of lone mothers of children from mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds in three neighbourhoods in Bristol. The research generated rich data on the influence of space and place on the experiences of this group, particularly how the mothers' and children's understandings of their racialised identities were supported or challenged by social attitudes towards racial or ethnic mixing in their neighbourhoods (1).

Key findings from the overall body of research challenge existing conceptualisations of mixed race people, couples and families in the UK, both in relation to contemporary and historical experiences. In particular, the work has questioned `static' models that presume the backgrounds and experiences of those mixing or of mixed race/ethnicity by highlighting the diversity and complexity of these groups, as well as an often overlooked `ordinariness' present in their everyday lives.

References to the research

1. Caballero, C., Edwards, R., Goodyer, A., and Okitikpi, T. (2012) The diversity and complexity of the everyday lives of mixed racial and ethnic families: Implications for adoption and fostering policy and practice, Adoption and Fostering, 36(3&4): 9-24


2. Caballero, C. (2012) `Draughtboard Alley' to `Brown Britain': the ordinariness of mixedness in British life' in Edwards, R., Ali, S., Caballero, C and Song, M. (eds.) (2012) International Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Mixedness and Mixing, London: Routledge

3. Smith, D., Edwards, R. and Caballero, C. (2011) `The residential patterns of mixed-ethnicity couples and families in England and Wales: `hidden' and `emerging' local geographies of contemporary society?', Environment and Planning A, 43(5): 1455-1476


4. Edwards, R., Caballero, C. and Puthussery, S. (2010) `Parenting Children From `Mixed' Racial, Ethnic and Faith Backgrounds: Typifications of Difference and Belonging', Ethnic and Racial Studies, 33(6): 949-967


5. Caballero, C., Edwards, R. and Smith, D. (2008) `Cultures of Mixing: Understanding Partnerships Across Ethnicity' in 21st Century Society, 3(1), 49-63


Details of the impact

This case study demonstrates how research has (i) enhanced cultural insights into and understanding of mixed racial and ethnic mixing and mixedness in Britain, and (ii) had an impact on the social awareness of and approaches to mixed race populations, through the following channels:

1. Practitioner and Frontline Engagement:

The insights resulting from the three research projects were coalesced into a permanent web- based resource, the Mix-d Museum (1) funded by the AHRC (Lead: Caballero, £24k, 2011-12). The site has had 10,000 visits and over 27,000 page views since its launch in July 2012. Google analytics shows that 45% of views come from 143 countries (2).

Independent consultants interviewed the founder of Mix-d, a social enterprise supporting mixed race young people and a partner in the Mix-d Museum project (3).

He stated that "Caballero's research has benefited the subject and his organisation immensely". He further commented: "We have drawn heavily on Caballero's work which not only eliminates American bias, displaces myths with up to date knowledge and understanding but allows oral history to be captured and presented in a way that is digestible and deliverable to various audiences including young people".

During 2012, Mix-d incorporated findings from Caballero's research in their presentations to and work with over 350 school children and 40-50 teachers, influencing curricula, such as, history and citizenship. The Founder of Mix-d further indicated that "a good visual representation helps in finding the correct vocabulary to talk about the subject in greater detail" in reference specifically to teachers. In 2013, Mix-d also used Caballero's work in their engagement with 250 foster carers to help them raise awareness of the potential issues facing mixed race children and equip them with appropriate understanding and resources.

Educators and students have made extensive use of the Museum. For example, Whalley Range High School and Stretford Grammar School in Manchester have incorporated the resource into their curriculum, while students at Stretford have also produced a highly visible wall mural based on the Mix-d Museum model to communicate their own understandings of mixedness and family heritages to other students, teachers, parents and visitors (3).

Other organisations, for example, BAAF (British Association of Adoption and Fostering), have highlighted how they have drawn on Caballero's research in their delivery of raising BME issues in adoption and fostering to social work practitioners and carers. The Director of Research, Policy and Development at BAAF has recommended that a specific journal article produced by Caballero should be required reading for social workers (4). The publication featuring this article has sold over 500 copies in the UK and further copies were sold at the International Fostering and Adoption Conference in Bilbao in July 2013.

2. Extensive Media Coverage and Engagement:

In 2010, the BBC approached Caballero to translate her research findings from Project 2 into a single BBC4 programme. Upon reviewing the depth and richness of the findings, the BBC decided to produce a three part series to be aired on prime time BBC2 (Mixed Britannia — was broadcast between October-November 2012 at 9.00pm). Caballero appeared in and acted as academic consultant to the series (5,6) which was presented by George Alaghiah and was well received by the public, gaining the second highest recorded score (90%) on the BBC's audience satisfaction survey for a current affairs programme. It also trended on Twitter, attracting positive comments from viewers, including celebrity viewers such as Boy George (270,000 followers) (6).

The series received critical acclaim and extensive media coverage as a result of its challenge of existing perceptions of mixed race people, couples and families, featuring on Radio 4 (4th October 2011) and in The Guardian (5th, 9th and 20th October 2011), The Daily Telegraph (5th, 6th October 2011), The Times (2nd, 7th October 2011), The Daily Mail (6th October 2011) and The Independent (21st October 2011). The Guardian interviewed Caballero (4th October 2011) for an article centring on the research and its role in informing the programmes. Impact from the series continues to raise social awareness through broadcasts by the BBC World Service.

In October 2011, Caballero provided academic guidance to BBC2 Newsnight with the content of their special feature on Mixed Race Britain. The producer commented on Caballero's input to the programme, saying that she helped shape the programme's research on perceptions of mixed race families in Britain (7). Newsnight's viewing figures in October 2011 averaged 664,000 per night.

3. Other Examples of Reach:

The British Academy has indicated that the research outcomes from Project 2 were `very valuable in helping to make the case' for the continuation of its Small Grants Scheme (8). Disbanded in April 2011, the scheme was restarted in January 2012 with new investment (£1.5 million over three years) from the Leverhulme Trust. In addition, the project was highlighted as an exemplar of successful research enabled by the scheme (9).

In February 2013, the Asian American Literary Review commissioned Caballero to develop information cards for the Review's Special Issue on Mixed Race (10) as part of their on-line teaching programme to undergraduates and postgraduate students in 66 universities and colleges across 9 countries.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  2. Google Analytics Report on Mix-d Museum web analytics (available on request from LSBU).
  3. Independent Consultants (The Innovation Partnership, 2013) interview of Founder of Mix-d. Contact: Managing Director, The Innovation Partnership.
  4. Statement (email) from Director of Policy, Research and Development, BAAF.
  6. Statement (email) from BBC producer of Mixed Britannia.
  7. Statement (email) from BBC producer of Newsnight.
  8. Statement (email) from Head of Research Awards, British Academy.
  9. Article in Times Higher Education, January 2011