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Making Whiteness Visible: Critical Whiteness courses offered in Namibia

White is not a color. White is a political definition, which represents historical, political and social privileges of a certain group that has access to dominant structures and institutions of society. Whiteness represents the reality and history of a certain group. When we talk about what it means to be white, then we talk about politics and certainly not about biology. Just like the term black is a political identity, which refers to a historicity, political and social realities and not to biology.” – Author and psychoanalyst Dr. Grada Kilomba in an interview with AfricAvenir

Critical Whiteness studies is an interdisciplinary arena of academic inquiry focused on what proponents describe as the cultural, historical and sociological aspects of people identified as white, and the social construction of whiteness as an ideology tied to social status.

The origins of Critical Whiteness Studies can be traced back to thinkers and writers like W.E.B. DuBois (Darkwater. Voices from with the Veil, here the chapter : The Souls of White Folk, 1920), Frantz Fanon  (Black Skin, White Masks, 1967), and Steve Biko (I write what I like, 1978). 

Pioneers in the academic field include bell hooks (Black Looks. Race and Representation, 1992), Stuart Hall (The Question of Cultural Identity, 1992), Ruth Frankenberg (White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness, 1993), author and literary critic Toni Morrison (Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, 1992) and historian David Roediger (The Wages of Whiteness, 1991). Since the mid-1990s, numerous works across many disciplines analyzed whiteness, and it has since become a topic for academic courses, research and anthologies.

A central tenet of critical whiteness studies is a reading of history and its effects on the present, inspired by postmodernism and historicism, in which the very concept of racial superiority is socially constructed in order to justify discrimination against non-whites.  Major areas of research include the nature of white identity and of white privilege, the historical process by which a white racial identity was created, the relation of culture to white identity, and possible processes of social change as they affect white identity. 

In line with the above mentioned thinkers and scholars, AfricAvenir Windhoek offers Critical Whiteness courses and workshops upon request. So far we have given these workshops to study groups and institutions, who are willing to critically look into the matter of how power relations – in regards to colonialism, history, race, culture, and identity – are both established and potentially unsettled.

For more information, call +264 (0)855630949 or send en email to Christian Mahnke

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