Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Fall 12-9-2016

Major Department or Program

Rhetoric Studies


Heather Ashley Hayes


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.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Barack Obama -- Influence, Diversity in higher education -- Public opinion -- Problems and exercises, Whites -- Race identity -- United States -- Anecdotes, Black Lives Matter movement -- Social aspects, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2017 -- Rhetoric Studies

Permanent URL

Document Type

Public Accessible Thesis

Included in

Rhetoric Commons



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