Whiteness at Whitman : a discursive study
Cahoon, Christopher Lee
December 9, 2016
Hayes, Heather Ashley
This study analyzes ethnographic interviews with white students at Whitman College. It examines how whiteness functions through discourse. The last significant study of whiteness discourse in rhetorical studies occurred in the work of Nakayama & Krizek in 1995. The historical context surrounding race has changed notably since this study. I provide an updated analysis of whiteness discourse. I use Nakayama and Krizek’s theory of whiteness as a strategy. I examine how whiteness functions as a discursive strategy at Whitman College. I demonstrate that in the space of a university, whiteness is no longer invisible. White students at Whitman College talk about their whiteness. Whitman students talk about race primarily in terms of "diversity," "understanding," "comfort" and "privilege." The ways they talk about race, and as a result conceive of whiteness, strategically maneuver around the challenge to our dominance. Consequently, they are able to claim anti-racist work without enacting changes towards racial equity. By talking about whiteness in non-disruptive ways, they reinforce the racial hierarchy in our community.
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