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Critical Multicultural Perspectives on Whiteness

Views from the Past and Present

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Edited By Virginia Lea, Darren E. Lund and Paul R. Carr

Whiteness is a narrative. It is the privileged dimension of the complex story of "race" that was, and continues to be, seminal in shaping the socio-economic structure and cultural climate of the United States and other Western nations. Without acknowledging this story, it is impossible to understand fully the current political and social contexts in which we live. Critical Multicultural Perspectives on Whiteness explores multiple analyses of whiteness, drawing on both past and current key sources to tell the story in a more comprehensive way. This book features both iconic essays that address the social construction of whiteness and critical resistance as well as excellent new critical perspectives.

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15. Whiteness and Intersectionality Theory (Cynthia Levine-Rasky)

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Chapter 15

Whiteness and Intersectionality Theory

Cynthia Levine-Rasky

In critical Whiteness studies, Whiteness refers not to a state of being that may be read off one’s ethnic origins or alleged skin colour, but to a position of social dominance. Best understood as the quality of a set of social relations defined by differential access to resources and rewards, status and choice, Whiteness is not a static identity category, but a locus of power. Elsewhere, I suggest that Whiteness is practiced in four ways: through normalization and solipsism; through controlling the terms with which it engages otherness; through certain ideological commitments; and through exclusionary practices (Levine-Rasky, 2013). Since Whiteness is not a singular process in which members of the dominant social group are engaged, it raises the question of its effects when it intersects with other social positions. How does Whiteness reticulate with middle classness? Does the practice of Whiteness modulate with White ethnicity? To review these questions, we may turn to intersectionality theory. Developed in the women’s movement to describe forms of oppression for different groups of women, I argue that the approach may be adapted to explore the complexities of a Whiteness fractured by class and ethnicity. I favour the approach proposed by Avtar Brah and Ann Phoenix, and then turn to the work of Floya Anthias in order to elaborate further on intersectionality. The former focuses on the effects of differentiation rather than on the categories of difference and integrates the dynamics...

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