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Race may dominate everyday speech, media headlines and public policy, yet still questions of racialized blackness and whiteness in Shakespeare are resisted. In his compelling new book Ian Smith addresses the influence of systemic whiteness on the interpretation of Shakespeare's plays. This far-reaching study shows that significant parts of Shakespeare's texts have been elided, misconstrued or otherwise rendered invisible by readers who have ignored the presence of race in early modern England. Bringing the Black American intellectual tradition into fruitful dialogue with European thought, this urgent interdisciplinary work offers a deep, revealing and incisive analysis of individual plays, including Othello, The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet. Demonstrating how racial illiteracy inhibits critical practice, Ian Smith provides a necessary anti-racist alternative that will transform the way you read Shakespeare.
This chapter explores the discourses used to construct disability as different in nineteenth-century Britain and its empire. First, I argue that in this period a constellation of figures came to be seen as a class of people distinct from the remainder of the British population. The census and philanthropic literature functioned to crystallise disability as something tangible and other. Conceptualising disabled people in this way required considerable discursive, architectural, administrative, philanthropic and pedagogical work and this work occurred both in the empire overseas and at home in imperial Britain. Secondly, I argue that the status of Britain, throughout the nineteenth century, as the heart of a global empire, was crucial to how ideas about disability came to be formed. My third argument is that whilst empire shaped the way in which disability was constructed, the reverse was also true: thinking about disability moulded the way in which the colonial ‘other’ was imagined. People of colour who may otherwise be considered non-disabled were repeatedly described using language that evoked disablement. My overarching argument is, therefore, that discourses of race and disability, whilst not one and the same, were not simply related discourses but were mutually constituted.
Just like racial difference, whiteness is a social construct. The paradox of race and of whiteness is that white or nonwhite skin color means nothing in itself; rather, what matters is the social meaning that is ascribed to these differences in color. This essay examines the way whiteness has historically been constructed in both law and literature. Exploring the parallel between legal and literary histories, it refers to the literature of naturalism – Frank Norris’s The Octopus and Stephen Crane’s Maggie – as well as to the racial prerequisite cases, in which immigrants had to prove they were white and hence eligible for naturalization. In law as much as in literature, whiteness is far from homogenous, but instead seems to be eclipsed into infinite shades of whiteness. At the same time, in both literature and law, whiteness is not only linked to skin color, but to culture as well. In Crane’s novella, the cultural compatibility of the Irish is seen as dubious at best. Similarly, the Chinese cook in Norris’s novel is portrayed as culturally alien and hence as unassimilable. This essay proposes that the potential whiteness of immigrant groups is being contested in both the court of law and that of literature.
The works of George Saunders and J.D. Vance suggest two paths forward for white American writers in the twenty-first century. While both acknowledge whiteness as foundational to the organization of contemporary society, Vance ignores the privileges that Saunders seeks to interrogate. The elections of both Obama and Trump have profoundly shifted how we talk about race in the United States, and their presidencies have made clear that whiteness can no longer operate as an invisible, presumed position of authority. Amid our often frightening moment of political unrest, we have an opportunity to speak of whiteness as the historical force of domination and exclusion that led to centuries of injustice and which continues to define so much of contemporary American life. Though white writers have not led the way on progressive representations of race in U.S. fiction, they may at last complete the important task of making whiteness visible.
This final chapter uses the shift metaphor to suggest that change might be limited if not explicitly anti-racist. In the absence of this consciousness, a shift can be sidewards rather than forwards. I argue that empirical studies in EU law can only take a shift forwards when the principle and practice of decolonialism is embedded in it. This requires recognition of Europe's colonial past as well as racism in the present. The assumption that all Europeans are White, and all Blacks are migrants has to be debunked – Black European scholars need to be encouraged to take their place in the field and given access to resources to ensure that empirical research in EU law also focuses on experiences important to their lives.
In the midst of ardent calls for decolonizing and building a more anti-racist archaeology, whiteness has gone largely unacknowledged in the history of disciplinary thought and practice. As a point of departure, this article asks: why are there so many White archaeologists? In addressing this question, I suggest that the development of early archaeological method and thought was deeply affected by White supremacy. In presenting the two case studies of Montroville Dickson and Flinders Petrie, I suggest that a radical new history of archaeology is needed if we are to build a more equitable, anti-racist field in the future. Central to this process to recognizing the role that whiteness has played and continues to play in archaeological practice and pedagogy.
The rich body of literature on the cultural legacies of East Germany has privileged white German perspectives on material culture at the expense of non-white and non-European encounters with socialist things. In shifting the spatial lens to the global South, and to the foreign students and workers who lived for extended periods in East Germany, I trouble the implicit whiteness in the study of GDR cultural memory. Popular identification with GDR goods extended beyond the borders of Germany to newly decolonized countries that were the beneficiaries of the GDR’s solidarity policies. Using the example of Vietnam, I challenge formulations of Ostalgie as a site of white German memory production only, highlighting consumption of East German products by racialized foreign Others. In examining the objects that Vietnamese migrants amassed and transported back to Vietnam, and their subsequent use and circulation through today, I offer a different take on the temporal and spatial relationship between people and commodities, one that assigns value and agency to imported socialist things. In contrast to reunified Germany, where socialist-era goods were deemed disposable and obsolete, in Vietnam, East German products did not lose their utility and associations with modernity. The essay argues for a more inclusive exploration of memory and approach to Ostalgie that takes seriously the alternative logics of time, space, and materiality that informed the circuits of consumption, trade, and meaning of GDR things.
The Afterword addresses the historical dominance of white voices in British nature writing, and the marginality of race, class and gender politics in the genre. This tendency matches continuing inequalities in the social and ethnic composition of British environmentalist movements. Contemporary nature writing also reflects regional inequalities, with many of its leading figures clustering around East Anglia. Nonetheless, Elizabeth-Jane Burnett’s recent book The Grassling exemplifies British nature writing that stands out not only through the unconventional background of its author, but also through its experimental techniques. At the same time, platforms such as The Willowherb Review suggest that the genre and the critical culture around it are gradually changing to allow room for more diverse voices. However, nature writers of colour venturing into rural environments still find themselves contending with the stark racial divide between Britain’s cities and countryside. Similarly, a growing range of LGBTQ* nature writers are becoming increasingly visible in the genre and challenging heteronormative codings of the rural. In the aftermath of Brexit and a global pandemic, Britain’s nature writers confront a nation highly divided and isolated, and a literary heritage permeated by elitist elements which need to be reckoned with.
We explore the inherently racialized premises of colonial–national modernity and of imperial and national archaeologies, juxtaposing them with the contradictions and fluidity inherent in “Greek” and “Israeli” identities. This is followed by a brief critique of the reductionist, and often self-serving, roll-out of ancient DNA studies and of their political co-optation.
Archaeology, Nation, and Race is a must-read book for students of archaeology and adjacent fields. It demonstrates how archaeology and concepts of antiquity have shaped, and have been shaped by colonialism, race, and nationalism. Structured as a lucid and lively dialogue between two leading scholars, the volume compares modern Greece and modern Israel – two prototypical and influential cases – where archaeology sits at the very heart of the modern national imagination. Exchanging views on the foundational myths, moral economies, and racial prejudices in the field of archaeology and beyond, Hamilakis and Greenberg explore topics such as the colonial origins of national archaeologies, the crypto-colonization of the countries and their archaeologies, the role of archaeology as a process of purification, and the racialization and 'whitening' of Greece and Israel and their archaeological and material heritage. They conclude with a call for decolonization and the need to forge alliances with subjugated communities and new political movements.
There is much research on race and schooling focused on punitive discipline, but little attention is paid to how teachers and administrators use minor policies to coerce students to “willingly” adopt hegemonic ideologies, particularly the ones that correspond to Whiteness. In this work, Whiteness is conceptualized as a social concept in which forms of knowledge, skills, and behavioral traits are cultivated for the sake of maintaining White supremacy as the dominant ideology in the social organization of structures and people. My work explores how teachers and administrators use school dress code policies, specifically the policies regarding hairstyles, to indoctrinate Black students into Whiteness. I argue that schools are sites intended to racialize Black students into White society. I argue that dress codes that regulate hairstyles are a form of White hegemony. I ground my work in Antonio Gramsci and John Gaventa’s theoretical views of hegemony to conceptualize how administrators and teachers invoke forms of domination and coercion to force Black students to transform their appearance for the sake of upholding White ideals of professionalism. I offer a critical race conceptual model that articulates how power is enacted upon Black students to further a White aesthetic. The conceptual model highlights how teachers and administrators assign racialized social meanings to different hairstyles and unconsciously or consciously reinforce the idea that Black hairstyles hinder Black students’ performance in the classroom and reduce their future employment opportunities. Contemporary examples of Black students’ experiences in school are cases that validate this model. I argue that dress code policies about hair that incur minor infractions are destructive to Black students’ sense of identity and reinforce Whiteness as the normative frame of civil society.
The introduction explains the subject and purpose of this study, placing it in its historiographical contexts, which includes the history of the racial identity of the Italians, the history of the continuities of fascist and colonial racism in post-fascist and post-colonial Italy, and the history of Black Italy. I illustrate the specificities of the story of the Italian “brown babies” within the larger framework of post-World War II Europe, foregrounding the persistence of racial ideology in post-fascist Italy and the continuing racial subtext of Italian national identity, in spite of the emergence of ant-iracist sensibilities. The introduction also provides an overview of the book chapters.
Celebrities live their lives in constant dialogue with stories about them. But when these stories are shaped by durable racist myths, they wield undue power to ruin lives and obliterate communities. Black Legend is the haunting story of an Afro-Argentine, Raúl Grigera ('el negro Raúl'), who in the early 1900s audaciously fashioned himself into an alluring Black icon of Buenos Aires' bohemian nightlife, only to have defamatory storytellers unmake him. In this gripping history, Paulina Alberto exposes the destructive power of racial storytelling and narrates a new history of Black Argentina and Argentine Blackness across two centuries. With the extraordinary Raúl Grigera at its center, Black Legend opens new windows into lived experiences of Blackness in a 'white' nation, and illuminates how Raúl's experience of celebrity was not far removed from more ordinary experiences of racial stories in the flesh.
I introduce readers to Raúl Grigera, to master narratives of race (Whiteness and Blackness) in Argentina, and to the hundreds of defamatory stories by which Raúl came to be known and remembered. I use this corpus to sketch the composite story of his life that the book goes on to debunk and rewrite: his supposedly unknowable or inexplicable origins, his early orphandom and wayward youth, his spurious fame as a buffoon of the city’s elite, his oft-anticipated decline and death. Engaging with literature in psychology, critical race studies, literary theory, and other fields to explore narrative’s singularly persuasive power, the introduction develops the concept of “racial stories” and makes the case for the urgency of crafting new, critical counter-stories. It goes on to explore the problem of Black celebrity in a White nation where that idea was almost a contradiction in terms. Finally, it considers my own role as one more narrator of Raúl’s tale – yet another racial storyteller – and provides an overview of the book’s arguments and structure.
Since antiquity, poets have described their experience of versification as one of constraint. The introduction examines examples of this trope, and introduces the book’s central claim: that voluntary submission to formal constraints effaces the poetries and experiences of those who are actually in bondage. It discusses the way poets and critics have aligned the imposition or radical overthrow of formal constraints with conservative or revolutionary politics, and offers some working definitions of lyric. Close readings of a sonnet by Keats, and a discussion of J. S. Mill’s essay ‘What is Poetry’, establish the book’s historicist perspective on the ‘liberal lyric’ in relation to the histories of slavery. The introduction also explains the methodology, and situates my own critical practice in relation to whiteness as a kind of enclosure.
Poetry and Bondage is a groundbreaking and comprehensive study of the history of poetic constraint. For millennia, poets have compared verse to bondage – chains, fetters, cells, or slavery. Tracing this metaphor from Ovid through the present, Andrea Brady reveals the contributions to poetics of people who are actually in bondage. How, the book asks, does our understanding of the lyric – and the political freedoms and forms of human being it is supposed to epitomise – change, if we listen to the voices of enslaved and imprisoned poets? Bringing canonical and contemporary poets into dialogue, from Thomas Wyatt to Rob Halpern, Emily Dickinson to M. NourbeSe Philip, and Phillis Wheatley to Lisa Robertson, the book also examines poetry that emerged from the plantation and the prison. This book is a major intervention in lyric studies and literary criticism, interrogating the whiteness of those disciplines and exploring the possibilities for committed poetry today.
Qualitative research can clarify how the racialized social system of Whiteness influences White Americans’ health beliefs in ways that are not easily captured through survey data. This secondary analysis draws upon oral history interviews (n=24) conducted in 2019 with Whites in a rural region of Appalachian western North Carolina. Interviewees discussed personal life history, community culture, health beliefs, and experiences with healthcare systems and services. Thematic analysis conveyed two distinct orientations toward health and healthcare: (1) bootstraps perspective, and (2) structural perspective. Whiteness did not uniformly shape interviewees’ perceptions of health and healthcare, rather, individual experiences throughout their life course and the racialized social system contributed to these Appalachian residents’ assessments of who is responsible for health and healthcare. Dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act was salient among interviewees whose life stories reflected meritocratic ideals, regardless of education level, age, or gender identity. They apprised strong work ethic as a core community value, assuming that personal contributions to the social system match the rewards that one receives in return for individual effort. Conversely, interviewees who were primarily socialized outside of rural Appalachia acknowledged some macro-level social determinants of health and expressed support for universal healthcare models. Findings suggest that there is not one uniform type of “rural White” within this region of Appalachia. Interventions designed to increase support for health equity promoting policies and programs should consider how regional and place-based factors shape White Americans’ sense of identity and subsequent health beliefs, attitudes, and voting behaviors. In this Appalachian region, some White residents’ general mistrust of outsiders indicates that efforts to garner more political will for health-promoting social programs should be presented by local, trusted residents who exhibit a structural perspective of health and healthcare.
Slavery can exist without racism, which certainly appears and endures in societies without slavery. Slavery and racism become entangled in color symbolism and color prejudice across the planet, and no natural rules determine how hierarchies evolve privileging some people over others. Nevertheless, looking at attitudes toward blackness in medieval Europe shows how one region’s societies evolving attitudes about color and the human family preordained how Europeans treated people who appeared different.
Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and pagan antiquity bequeathed to medieval Europe systems of slavery as well as ideas on a hierarchy of “races” privileging some groups and colors over others. The premodern science of physiognomy legitimized constructs of race and color symbolism, to which commentators on the Bible contributed. The apparently stark contrasts among black, brown, red, and white people became proxies for good and evil and other traits. In Europe blackness normally defined Satan, bad things like death and melancholy, and eventually a prevalent type of slave. Color (and gender) of slaves in the late medieval Mediterranean markets affected their prices and revealed buyers’ preferences. Fifteenth-century encounters with sub-Sahara Africa illuminate how Europeans imposed their values of color prejudice on peoples who did not share them.
To a God Unknown has typically been viewed as one of John Steinbeck’s most problematic novels, not least because of the its jarring mixture of realistic and fantastic elements. This chapter reevaluates Steinbeck’s early novel by placing it in the context of emergent ideas about race and climate in the American West. To a God Unknown is an experimental work that attempts to fuse realist and symbolic modes in ways parallel to the genre of magical realism, which first developed in post-Expressionist art of the 1920s. By exploring Steinbeck’s thinking during his composition of the novel, particularly his interest in “race psychopathology” and his reading in early climate science, we discover how Steinbeck’s magical realism is a pioneering attempt to understand and represent the aridity and drought that define the climate of the West and have profound implications for the kind of human society it can sustain. Through formal analysis in historical context, the chapter lays the groundwork for considerations of Steinbeck as a writer of the Anthropocene and of environmentalist critique.