Birgit Brander Rasmussen,
Eric Klinenberg, Irene J. Nexica,
and Matt Wray
What is Whiteness?
This book comes at a moment when questions about the status and
project of whiteness studies need consideration. Is whiteness a useful
category of analysis? Does it help explain or illuminate ethnoracial
di√erentiation, division, and domination? Is whiteness a useful cate-
gory for political action? What, if any, significance does it have for
organizers and political o≈cials? How does whiteness figure into vari-
ous racial vocabularies? Does looking closely at whiteness help to
sharpen or does it obscure the analysis of race? Does studying white-
ness further marginalize the experiences of groups long left out of the
historical record? In other words, is ‘‘critical whiteness studies’’ the
Trojan horse through which the study and perspective of whites will be
recentered in studies of race and ethnicity?∞
In the last several years there has been a proliferation of thinking
and writing about whiteness.≤ A combination of factors has led to this
profusion of scholarly activity, and continued publishing in the field is
one sign that scholars have yet to resolve the many issues to which
they helped call attention. What roles do multiculturalism, the rise of
identity politics, and the ‘‘declining white majority’’ of certain key
states and urban areas play in this scenario? Equally important, what
does discomfort about the emergence of whiteness as a topic of debate
signal about the nature or limits of the inquiry as it currently exists?≥
One of the problems with studying whiteness is that no one who
does it has an easy time determining what authors and texts should be
included in the inquiry. Indeed, as an editorial collective we had many
contentious and lively debates about this and were not always able to
agree on what exactly constitutes an appropriate intellectual genealogy
for critical whiteness studies. Furthermore, what became clear from
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