The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII) is an Interdisciplinary Cultural Laboratory based in the premise that race is one of the prime ways history lives in us.
Our name “racial imaginary” is meant to capture the enduring truth of race: it is an invented concept that nevertheless operates with extraordinary force in our daily lives, limiting our movements and imaginations. We understand that perceptions, resources, rights, and lives themselves flow along racial lines that confront some of us with restrictions and give others uninterrogated power. These lines are drawn and maintained by white dominance even as individuals and communities alike continually challenge them.
Because no sphere of life is untouched by race, the Institute gathers under its aegis an interdisciplinary range of artists, writers, knowledge-producers, and activists. It convenes a cultural laboratory in which the racial imaginaries of our time and place are engaged, read, countered, contextualized and demystified.
The Institute begins with a focus on whiteness because we believe that in our current moment whiteness is freshly articulated: the volume on whiteness has been turned up. Whiteness as a source of unquestioned power, and as a “bloc,” feels itself to be endangered even as it retains its hold on power. Given that the concept of racial hierarchy is a strategy employed to support white dominance, whiteness is an important aspect of any conversation about race. We begin here in order to make visible that which has been intentionally presented as inevitable so that we can move forward into more revelatory conversations about race. Our first project questions what can be made when we investigate, evade, beset and call out bloc-whiteness.
The future includes the proliferation of our activities into other field sites: pop-up versions of the Institute will emerge in different communities through collaborative efforts between the Institute’s staff and the community’s local artists, organizers, and writers.