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Whiteness: An American History (HI3J9)


Shawn Michelle Smith, "In the Crowd"

Shawn Michelle Smith
"In the Crowd" (2007)

Module Convenor: Dr Lydia Plath

NB This module is not running in 2019/20


In this 30 CATS undergraduate final-year Advanced Option module, students will critically engage with the concept of "whiteness" in the United States from theoretical, social, and cultural perspectives. We will discuss how whiteness has been constructed as a means of opposition, domination and control of "others" (especially African Americans) from the antebellum period to the present. We will chart how the definition of whiteness has changed over time to include or exclude certain groups, and we will delineate the distinctions, tensions, and connections between "white supremacy," "white nationalism," "white privilege," and other structures of white power. In doing so, we will analyse how violence has been used to uphold white supremacy, the intersections between whiteness, class, and gender, and the role of popular culture in constructing white identity and perpetuating white privilege.

The module will draw upon both the lived experience of "white" people and the writings of people of colour in order to enable students to analyse the role of whiteness as both personal identity and socio-political force. Although the module focuses predominantly on the United States, students will be encouraged to draw upon their learning in other modules to bring comparative perspectives to their understandings of whiteness.