Facing racism

Discomfort, innocence and the liberal peripheralisation of race in the Netherlands

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
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In this paper, we argue in favour of an anthropological focus on the ‘doing’ of whiteness, which is necessary to understand how various, contrasting but interconnected articulations of whiteness come into being. We focus on two ethnographic vignettes that reveal the different structural positions, within a culturalised and racialised order, of the anthropologists developing them. The vignettes focus on liberal and progressive ‘middle‐class’ articulations of whiteness that often remain unrecognised and – especially – bathed in innocence, but that go to the heart of the contemporary European question. We take issue with the liberal peripheralisation of racism, a discursive practice that locates racism in the ‘white working class’ and symbolically exorcises it from the ‘moderate’, centrist core of Europe. Rather than truly facing racism, what seems at stake for many liberals and progressives is the self‐image of being well‐meaning ‘respectable’ and ‘good’ middle‐class people.

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