Witnessing whiteness: articulating race and the "politics of style"

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This paper will explore the ways in which practitioners in the area of whiteness studies have co-opted literary forms and generic convention to generate a critical idiom idiosyncratic to the locution of whiteness. If, as Rosi Braidotti observes in the introduction to her book, Nomadic Subjects, the question of style is inseparable from the making of political choices, the scholarly techniques though which the subject enunciates his or her whiteness require a more nuanced analysis. Ruminating on the how of whiteness, the rhetorical strategies at work in the production of material truths, I postulate that two distinct impulses are evident in white writings: a drive to achieve reconciliation (of self with other, or indeed self with self) and a desire to perform transformation (both subjective and textual). These inclinations are related, if not with complete exactitude then with a reasonable degree of probability, to two structural genres I have provisionally termed the confessional and the autobiographical. Drawing on the writings of Foucault, Deleuze and Lyotard, I will argue that whilst the autobiographical genre enables the white subject to access a degree of reflexivity in order to consider his/her racial situatedness, white "confessional" writings take pleasure, both textual and libidinal, from the recognition of one's privileged racial identity and thus should be regarded skeptically in a scholarly movement which identifies itself as anti-racist.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBorderlands e-journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Whiteness studies
  • White racial identity
  • Poststructuralist theory
  • Rhetorical structures
  • Braidotti, Rosi
  • Foucault, Michel, 1926-1984
  • Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix
  • Derrida, Jacques
  • Lyotard, Jean-Francois


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