The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness

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Bringing together new articles and essays from the controversial Berkeley conference of the same name, The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness presents a fascinating range of inquiry into the nature of whiteness. Representing academics, independent scholars, community organizers, and antiracist activists, the contributors are all leaders in the “second wave” of whiteness studies who collectively aim to combat the historical legacies of white supremacy and to inform those who seek to understand the changing nature of white identity, both in the United States and abroad.
With essays devoted to theories of racial domination, comparative global racisms, and transnational white identity, the geographical reach of the volume is significant and broad. Dalton Conley writes on “How I Learned to Be White.” Allan Bérubé discusses the intersection of gay identity and whiteness, and Mab Segrest describes the spiritual price white people pay for living in a system of white supremacy. Other pieces examine the utility of whiteness as a critical term for social analysis and contextualize different attempts at antiracist activism. In a razor-sharp introduction, the editors not only raise provocative questions about the intellectual, social, and political goals of those interested in the study of whiteness but assess several of the topic’s major recurrent themes: the visibility of whiteness (or the lack thereof); the “emptiness” of whiteness as a category of identification; and conceptions of whiteness as a structural privilege, a harbinger of violence, or an institutionalization of European imperialism.

Contributors. William Aal, Allan Bérubé, Birgit Brander Rasmussen, Dalton Conley, Troy Duster, Ruth Frankenberg, John Hartigan Jr., Eric Klinenberg, Eric Lott, Irene J. Nexica, Michael Omi, Jasbir Kaur Puar, Mab Segrest, Vron Ware, Howard Winant, Matt Wray

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About the author

Birgit Brander Rasmussen is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Race and Migration at Yale University. She is the co-editor of The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness (Duke, 2001).

Eric Klinenberg is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University.

Irene J. Nexica is an independent scholar who studies popular music and culture.

Matt Wray is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Sep 7, 2001
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9780822381044
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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White identity is in ferment. White, European Americans living in the United States will soon share an unprecedented experience of slipping below 50% of the population. The impending demographic shifts are already felt in most urban centers and the effect is a national backlash of hyper-mobilized political, and sometimes violent, activism with a stated aim that is simultaneously vague and deadly clear: 'to take our country back.' Meanwhile the spectre of 'minority status' draws closer, and the material advantages of being born white are eroding.

This is the political and cultural reality tackled by Linda Martín Alcoff in The Future of Whiteness. She argues that whiteness is here to stay, at least for a while, but that half of whites have given up on ideas of white supremacy, and the shared public, material culture is more integrated than ever. More and more, whites are becoming aware of how they appear to non-whites, both at home and abroad, and this is having profound effects on white identity in North America. The young generation of whites today, as well as all those who follow, will have never known a country in which they could take white identity as the unchallenged default that dominates the political, economic and cultural leadership. Change is on the horizon, and the most important battleground is among white people themselves.

The Future of Whiteness makes no predictions but astutely analyzes the present reaction and evaluates the current signs of turmoil. Beautifully written and cogently argued, the book looks set to spark debate in the field and to illuminate an important area of racial politics.
American racism traps Blacks OCo even in Africa. Prof. Dennis chronicles the compulsive and repetitious nature of racism and its destructive effects on peoples and societies, Dr. DennisOCOs observations of the twists of irony and misplaced pride on all sides will provoke a wry smile as well as dismay. During the 1990s, Liberia descended into civil war and anarchy. African-Liberian rebel groups roamed the countryside randomly killing as they vied for power. Doe was killed by a segment of these rebel groups and warlord Charles Taylor eventually became president in 1997. In 2003, Taylor was deposed by rebel groups and is now on trial at The Hague for war crimes. Despite Ellen Johnson-SirleafOCOs democratic election in 2005, Liberia remains in ruins as a classic failed state in Africa. The obvious question is: Why did the Negro experiment planted in Africa in 1822 fail so miserably?. A true African-American, Dr. Dennis writes from a broad historical and social perspective having lived in an African tribe, as a Negro in the 1950s and since the Civil Rights Movement as a black man in America, having moved in international diplomatic circles and having worked as a member of the American academic elite. American racism traps Blacks OCo even in Africa. Prof. Dennis chronicles the compulsive and repetitious nature of racism and its destructive effects on peoples and societies, Dr. DennisOCOs observations of the twists of irony and misplaced pride on all sides will provoke a wry smile as well as dismay. During the 1990s, Liberia descended into civil war and anarchy. African-Liberian rebel groups roamed the countryside randomly killing as they vied for power. Doe was killed by a segment of these rebel groups and warlord Charles Taylor eventually became president in 1997. In 2003, Taylor was deposed by rebel groups and is now on trial at The Hague for war crimes. Despite Ellen Johnson-SirleafOCOs democratic election in 2005, Liberia remains in ruins as a classic failed state in Africa. The obvious question is: Why did the Negro experiment planted in Africa in 1822 fail so miserably?. A true African-American, Dr. Dennis writes from a broad historical and social perspective having lived in an African tribe, as a Negro in the 1950s and since the Civil Rights Movement as a black man in America, having moved in international diplomatic circles and having worked as a member of the American academic elite."
“A comprehensive, entertaining, and compelling argument for how rebuilding social infrastructure can help heal divisions in our society and move us forward.”—Jon Stewart

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • “Engaging.”—Mayor Pete Buttigieg, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

We are living in a time of deep divisions. Americans are sorting themselves along racial, religious, and cultural lines, leading to a level of polarization that the country hasn’t seen since the Civil War. Pundits and politicians are calling for us to come together and find common purpose. But how, exactly, can this be done?

In Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward. He believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, churches, and parks where crucial connections are formed. Interweaving his own research with examples from around the globe, Klinenberg shows how “social infrastructure” is helping to solve some of our most pressing societal challenges. Richly reported and ultimately uplifting, Palaces for the People offers a blueprint for bridging our seemingly unbridgeable divides.

LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION

“Just brilliant!”—Roman Mars, 99% Invisible

“The aim of this sweeping work is to popularize the notion of ‘social infrastructure'—the ‘physical places and organizations that shape the way people interact'. . . . Here, drawing on research in urban planning, behavioral economics, and environmental psychology, as well as on his own fieldwork from around the world, [Eric Klinenberg] posits that a community’s resilience correlates strongly with the robustness of its social infrastructure. The numerous case studies add up to a plea for more investment in the spaces and institutions (parks, libraries, childcare centers) that foster mutual support in civic life.”—The New Yorker

“Palaces for the People—the title is taken from the Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s description of the hundreds of libraries he funded—is essentially a calm, lucid exposition of a centuries-old idea, which is really a furious call to action.”—New Statesman

“Clear-eyed . . . fascinating.”—Psychology Today
White trash. The phrase conjures up images of dirty rural folk who are poor, ignorant, violent, and incestuous. But where did this stigmatizing phrase come from? And why do these stereotypes persist? Matt Wray answers these and other questions by delving into the long history behind this term of abuse and others like it. Ranging from the early 1700s to the early 1900s, Not Quite White documents the origins and transformations of the multiple meanings projected onto poor rural whites in the United States. Wray draws on a wide variety of primary sources—literary texts, folklore, diaries and journals, medical and scientific articles, social scientific analyses—to construct a dense archive of changing collective representations of poor whites.

Of crucial importance are the ideas about poor whites that circulated through early-twentieth-century public health campaigns, such as hookworm eradication and eugenic reforms. In these crusades, impoverished whites, particularly but not exclusively in the American South, were targeted for interventions by sanitarians who viewed them as “filthy, lazy crackers” in need of racial uplift and by eugenicists who viewed them as a “feebleminded menace” to the white race, threats that needed to be confined and involuntarily sterilized.

Part historical inquiry and part sociological investigation, Not Quite White demonstrates the power of social categories and boundaries to shape social relationships and institutions, to invent groups where none exist, and to influence policies and legislation that end up harming the very people they aim to help. It illuminates not only the cultural significance and consequences of poor white stereotypes but also how dominant whites exploited and expanded these stereotypes to bolster and defend their own fragile claims to whiteness.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NAMED ONE OF TIME’S TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE DECADE • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST
 
Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race” (Rolling Stone)
 
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In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
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