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Atlantic History Whiteness
by
Tim Engles

Introduction

Compared to studies of the concept of race, most of those directly focused on racial whiteness are relatively recent. Although nonwhite people have been “studying” whiteness for centuries by necessity, scholarly work concerned with this matter, in a field now called “critical whiteness studies,” first arose in the United States in the mid-1990s. The primary origins of the conscious, inherently dominant racial status of “white” lie in European contact with other, darker peoples and in subsequent efforts to distinguish Europeans as fundamentally different from, and in most respects superior to, members of other groups. The concept of “whiteness” as a favored and privileged status thus arose relationally, along with erroneous European conceptions of other peoples as essentially different from and inferior to Europeans themselves. The drive for colonial conquest and trade, and accompanying exploitation of indigenous peoples and enslavement of those of African descent, also shaped conceptions of “white” people among those of European descent, as did religious, scientific, and cultural beliefs. Who counted as white, and in what terms, varied greatly in terms of time and location; a trip across the Atlantic could turn a “black” person “white,” or vice versa, and groups with European roots excluded from whiteness by those who claimed that status for themselves often gained gradual recognition as white. While whiteness emerged as a widespread and explicitly conscious identity late in the Atlantic era, scholars emphasize that conceptions of what amount to racial difference arose prior to the idea of racial whiteness, and conceptions of seemingly inherent superiority among those with lighter skin emerged even earlier. And yet, who qualified as “white” has continually changed ever since the term’s conception as a racial marker, expanding and contracting in various places and eras to include and exclude various groups.

General Overviews

It is useful to divide overviews of this topic into Historical considerations, which discuss the development of the idea of whiteness over time and within certain historical settings, and Theoretical considerations, which define and examine both conceptions of whiteness itself and how it has operated in various settings.

Historical

Historical considerations are largely concerned with the creation of whiteness as an ideology and an identity marker that generally helped to justify European domination of other groups designated as nonwhite, and thus as supposedly inferior. Many works, such as Jordan 1968, Allen 1994–1997, and Roediger 1991, see whiteness as having formed in relation to solidifying conceptions of subjugated blackness. Others, such as Painter 2010, see the roots of white identity stretching back to European conceptions of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, while some study an array of localized white racial formations, including Sobel 1989 and Garner 2007. Finally, some historical overviews emphasize the context of labor in the formation of oppositional white identities among working-class white groups, such as Allen 1994–1997 and Roediger 1991, while others focus on scientific or religious influences on evolving white identities, such as Bessis 2003 and Painter 2010.

  • Allen, Theodore W. The Invention of the White Race: The Origin of Racial Oppression. 2 vols. London: Verso, 1994–1997.

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    Focused on the Irish and colonial American contexts, this wide-ranging overview of white racial formation includes an impassioned argument that whiteness was cemented as a racial identity by members of the economic elite, who sought to control those below them in class-based terms by imposing divisive conceptions of significant racial differences.

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  • Bessis, Sophie. Western Supremacy: The Triumph of an Idea? London: Zed, 2003.

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    The first two parts of this broad overview of the formation, rise, and potential fall of the West explain the foundations of the self-defining and self-justifying collective conceptions that provided a basis for conceptions of European racial superiority.

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  • Garner, Steve. “Atlantic Crossing: Whiteness as a Transatlantic Experience.” Atlantic Studies 4.1 (April 2007): 118–132.

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    Argues that whiteness in the Atlantic era was always in flux, a relational process rather than a historically fixed identity; indeed, as people crossed the Atlantic, their identities sometimes changed from white to black, or the reverse. Studies the significance of changing economic contexts to morphing racial identity among the Portuguese in 19th-century British Guiana, the Irish in the 17th-century Caribbean, and the Irish in 19th-century America.

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  • Jordan, Winthrop D. White over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550–1812. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968.

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    Classic study that accessibly describes a confluence of factors that quickly led to British conceptions of “white” superiority and African “black” inferiority, including religious, social, and scientific polarities that were already in place, such as God and the devil, purity/cleanliness and filthiness, sexual control and licentiousness, and so on. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Painter, Nell Irvin. The History of White People. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010.

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    Written for general readers, this overview begins by tracing distant historical roots of what became known as the white race, demonstrating the concept’s foundations throughout Western history in largely erroneous scientific, philosophical, and artistic thought and practice. Chapters range from ancient Greek and Roman times to the 21st century.

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  • Roediger, David R. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. London: Verso, 1991.

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    Highly influential study that builds on the concept of the “psychological wage” of whiteness (Du Bois 1992, cited under Theoretical) to show how various groups of European immigrants accepted the widespread denigration of their fellow black laborers in pursuit of newly white identities, neglecting in the process their common interests with laborers who remained nonwhite.

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  • Sobel, Mecha. The World They Made Together: Black and White Values in Eighteenth-Century Virginia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

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    Examines the “interpenetration of Western and African values,” beginning in the late 1600s, that shaped dominant colonial culture. Somewhat dated, but still an accessible, convincing account that belies the claims of those who became white that “their” culture (which was actually a mixed culture) was everywhere and always superior to that which they tried to erase, but instead often adopted—the values, mores, and cultures of enslaved Africans.

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Theoretical

Although the following texts each treat whiteness as it formed in specific times and locations, they also consider in more abstract ways the concept itself—how and why racial whiteness formed, and how it has worked to justify social dominance and privileged identities. Some analyze the concept’s effects on white groups and individuals, such as Delgado and Stefancic 1997, Hill 1997, and Lambert 2005, while others address the psychological effects on nonwhite people, including their resistance to those effects, such as Fanon 1994. Others emphasize the dependence on European or European American conceptions of nonwhite identities for the formation of white ones, including Du Bois 1992, Morrison 1992, Garner 2007, Martinot 2010, and some of the contributions to Hill 1997. Many discuss the high visibility and self-consciousness of white identity in some eras and the contrasting, normalized invisibility, to white people especially, of white identity and its effects in more recent times, especially contributions to Delgado and Stefancic 1997 and Hill 1997.

  • Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic, eds. Critical White Studies: Looking behind the Mirror. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.

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    Accessible collection that excerpts much of the most influential and pioneering scholarship on the history and idea of whiteness, with a wide array of historical, legal, literary, and sociological approaches.

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  • Du Bois, W. E. B. “The White Worker.” In Black Reconstruction: 1860–1880. By W. E. B. Du Bois, 17–31. New York: Atheneum, 1992.

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    Pioneering explanation of how, beginning in the early 1800s, white economic elites and laborers divided into several classes of whiteness, all united in the oppression of black laborers, whose degraded conditions and stifled opportunities benefited some white Americans more than others. Originally published in 1935 (New York: Russell and Russell).

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  • Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove, 1994.

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    This pioneering work analyzes from a black and psychoanalytic perspective the effects on colonized minds and identities of overarching and domineering white power. First published in French as Peau noire, masques blancs (Paris: Seuil, 1952).

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  • Garner, Steve. Whiteness: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2007.

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    Comprehensive yet concise introduction from a sociological perspective to many of the ideological underpinnings, facets, and meanings of whiteness and of its differing formations in varied locations, including the United States, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

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  • Hill, Mike, ed. Whiteness: A Critical Reader. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

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    Although focused primarily on later eras, the various authors in this collection provide a comprehensive understanding of what whiteness is and how it works, especially how it favors people classified as white and disadvantages others.

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  • Lambert, David. White Creole Culture, Politics and Identity during the Age of Abolition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Discusses the conceptions in Barbados of white Creole identities as differing subtly from “British” and argues that these identities responded to increasing abolitionist sentiment.

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  • Martinot, Steve. The Machinery of Whiteness: Studies in the Structure of Racialization. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010.

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    Explains how white racial identity in the United States has repeatedly reshaped itself as a dominant force; how women were “weaponized” in the service of white dominance; how foreign intervention has bolstered domestic white identities; and how anti-miscegenation laws and slave patrols shored up white legitimacy. Includes historical coverage of early conceptions of whiteness, particularly in Virginia.

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  • Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

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    Focuses on early European American historical figures and literary authors to demonstrate the ironic dependence of white identity on conceptions of black people, conceptions collectively identified as an “Africanist presence.” Also a good primer on the relational processes of racial identity formation and on the ironic dependency of an independent, “free,” and white American identity on figurations of enslaved blackness.

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Journals

Since critical whiteness studies emerged only in the mid-1990s, its relative newness as an academic field may account for the paucity of journals devoted to the topic. At this point only one journal focuses exclusively on the topic of racial whiteness, an online Australian publication: Critical Race and Whiteness Studies. Begun in 2005, this journal occasionally publishes articles related to the Atlantic Studies era. Other journals that publish articles focused on or related to whiteness in the Atlantic period include 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, which tends to focus on the British imperial context, and the equally interdisciplinary Atlantic Studies: Literary, Cultural and Historical Perspectives. Concentration on the Atlantic-era context of the Americas can be found in The Americas, Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and the Journal of American Ethnic History, while the French setting is covered in French Historical Studies. Studies of white identity construction in the context of slavery occasionally appear in Slavery and Abolition.

Primary Sources

Extensive written depictions of racial whiteness appeared with increasing frequency throughout the Atlantic era. As appropriation of indigenous lands and labor became increasingly suspect practices in moral terms, the unification of Europeans into a supposedly superior white race grew, in part as justification for their abuse of nonwhite others. As more people of indigenous and African descent acquired literacy and published their writings, they occasionally provided incisive critiques of common white attitudes and behaviors, including Walker 1830, Apess 1992, and Equiano 2004. The writings of Jefferson 1984 and Schaw 1921 demonstrate gradually solidifying European (and European American) conceptions both of white superiority and of varying degrees of nonwhite abjection and depravity. Crevecoeur 1904 provides a French perspective on a variety of white identities in the colonial American context, and Popkin 2007 provides period documents that delineate both French and Haitian conceptions of white attitudes and behavior. Poe 2005 meditates in a more literary mode on the hazards and potential consequences of white racial dominance.

  • Apess, William. “Eulogy on King Philip, as Pronounced at the Odeon, in Federal Street, Boston.” In Our Own Ground: The Complete Writings of William Apess, a Pequot. Edited and with an introduction by Barry O’Connell, 275–310. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.

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    The text of this lecture, delivered to a largely European American audience in 1836 by a Native American author, bluntly condemns white hypocrisy, especially the ironically destructive and appropriative efforts of Christian missionaries. Usefully read with a chapter on Apess’ rhetorical strategies in Todd Vogel’s Rewriting White: Race, Class, and Cultural Capital in Nineteenth-Century America (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004).

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  • Crevecoeur, Hector St. John de. Letters from an American Farmer. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904.

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    First published in 1782, and widely cited since for its third, celebratory chapter, “What Is an American?,” the description here of American types from a French perspective formally conjoins “European” with “American” identities. This enthusiastic conception is considerably dampened in subsequent chapters by descriptions of other white Americans in frontier and slaveholding settings. Text available online.

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  • Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. New York: Modern Library, 2004.

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    This 1789 autobiography’s many descriptions of Europeans only occasionally join them with “whiteness,” demonstrating how in flux, unstable, and locally various European identities as “white” were at the time. Helpful analysis of Equiano’s deployment of racial categories appears in Wheeler 2000 (cited under Literary Treatments). Text available online.

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  • Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia. New York: Library of America, 1984.

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    In his degrading observations on the supposedly inherent traits of people of indigenous American and African descent, Jefferson provides a stark portrait of the white supremacist ideology commonly subscribed to by the learned Europeans and European Americans of his day. Published in 1781–1782. Text available online.

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  • Poe, Edgar Allan. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. New York: Dover, 2005.

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    Ostensibly a high-seas adventure story, Poe’s only novel is now widely read as an allegory on race relations, including the seemingly unfathomable heart of whiteness. Productively read with Morrison 1992 (cited under Literary Treatments).

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  • Popkin, Jeremy D. Facing Racial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

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    Contains twenty-four contemporary eyewitnessings of the Haitian Revolution, with many blaming the problems on black barbarity. This belief is countered by Popkin’s analysis, and by his inclusion of vivid descriptions of white barbarity.

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  • Schaw, Janet. Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the Years 1774 to 1776. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1921.

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    A travel journal written by a single English woman in her mid- to late thirties; contains many observations of variably fixed white, British, and Creole identities, attitudes, and behaviors, as well as many of Schaw’s own, though common white conceptions of nonwhite others. Coleman 2003 (cited under British Atlantic) is a helpful study of Schaw’s interest in racial matters. Text available online.

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  • Walker, David. Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America, Written in Boston, State of Massachusetts, September 28, 1829. Boston: David Walker, 1830.

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    A self-published pamphlet by a free black author, aimed primarily at black readers and listeners. Includes a scathing critique of white civilization as avaricious, cruel, and failing to live up to its own values, particularly its avowedly Christian ones, and meant in part to be a direct, table-turning response to the insulting estimation of black people in Jefferson 1984. Text available online.

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Legal Treatments

As with other manifestations of whiteness, legal conceptions of it as an explicit or implied racial status varied widely across disparate Atlantic locations and time periods. Most available scholarship in this area is concerned with how courts have handled these matters in the United States; the focus in DiPiero 1999 on a broad European context and in Twinam 2009 on Latin America are the exceptions here. Primary emphasis repeatedly appears, especially in Harris 1993 and Haney-López 2006, on how courts justified decisions that had material consequences on the basis of race and whiteness, both of which amount in this context to unacknowledged judicial fictions. Dayan 2011, Delgado and Stefancic 1997, DiPiero 1999, Domínguez 1986, and Gross 2008 examine the legal significance of family bloodlines traced in terms of race.

  • Dayan, Colin. The Law Is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.

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    Multifaceted examination of legal conceptions of personhood throughout US history. Chapter 2 provides an especially helpful explanation of the origins of “blood” as a marker of racial identity and of the fear that people who looked “white” could be exposed as legally nonwhite by the revelation of racially mixed ancestry.

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  • Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic, eds. Critical White Studies: Looking behind the Mirror. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.

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    A wide-ranging collection that excerpts much of the most influential legal scholarship on the concept and implications of whiteness, with a mix of historical, legal, literary, and sociological approaches. Primarily focused on the late Atlantic Studies era and afterward.

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  • DiPiero, Thomas. “Missing Links: Whiteness and the Color of Reason in the Eighteenth Century.” Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 40.2 (Summer 1999): 155–174.

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    A study of legal divisions during the Enlightenment between white and nonwhite identities, divisions which were adjudicated largely on the basis of that which was thought to be there, such as racial bloodlines, rather than on what people could actually see about each other’s bodies. Available online by subscription.

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  • Domínguez, Virginia. White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1986.

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    Examines the legal definitions of 19th-century Louisiana’s multilayered racial hierarchies, where “one drop” of nonwhite blood was sometimes enough to disqualify a person from membership in the white race.

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  • Gross, Ariela J. What Blood Won’t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

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    Analysis of 19th-century racial identity court cases, in which whiteness was continually equated with American-ness. Argues that legal determinations of racial status were largely based as much on performance of racialized behaviors as on physical appearance or biological ancestry; also disputes the common scholarly claim that European immigrants had to work their way into whiteness, claiming instead that legally, they were always already considered white.

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  • Haney-López, Ian F. White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race. New York: New York University Press, 2006.

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    An important analysis of US court cases arising (from 1878–1952) from the 1790 Naturalization Act, which limited citizenship for immigrants to “free white persons.” Demonstrates that when people sought citizenship on this legal basis, the courts never defined the properties of whiteness, using instead existing nonwhite categories as their measure.

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  • Harris, Cheryl I. “Whiteness as Property.” Harvard Law Review 106.8 (June 1993): 1707–1791.

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    Highly influential study that demonstrates how appropriated Native American lands and African labor are both forms of legally enshrined property that were initially limited to white citizens, leading to judicial conceptions throughout American history of whiteness itself as a valued and protected form of property. Available online by subscription.

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  • Twinam, Amy. “Purchasing Whiteness: Conversations on the Essence of Pardo-ness and Mulatto-ness at the End of Empire.” In Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America. Edited by Andrew B. Fisher and Matthew David O’Hara, 141–166. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.

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    Discusses the unusual granting by Spanish colonial authorities during the late-18th-century in Latin America of the right to be recognized as “white,” as long as one paid for it. A demonstration of the changing and ever more desirable designation “white.”

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Artistic Treatments

The following analyses of whiteness in terms of the visual arts primarily occur in two modes. Some scholarly works, such as Babb 1998, Carrera 2003, Erickson 2000, Savage 1997, and Rosenthal 2004, analyze depictions of evolving whitened identities in visual art produced during the Atlantic era, and in the case of Dyer 1997 and Painter 2010, even earlier. Others, such as Oguibe 2004, discuss in broader and more theoretical terms how “art” itself has been conceptualized in self-defining Eurocentric ways, a perspective that tends to valorize European artists and their subjects while devaluing, primitivizing, or ignoring nonwhite artists and their subjects, which have often included whiteness itself.

  • Babb, Valerie. Whiteness Visible: The Meaning of Whiteness in American Literature and Culture. New York: New York University Press, 1998.

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    Second chapter analyzes ornately decorated and symbol-laden maps from the early Atlantic era, seeing in them a shift from conceptions of European discovery to racially justified conquest. Gendered figurations, including the nation-building trope of imperiled white feminine purity, mattered as well.

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  • Carrera, Magali M. Imagining Identity in New Spain: Race, Lineage, and the Colonial Body in Portraiture and Casta Paintings. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.

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    Fascinating study of early depictions of racial purity in colonial Mexican portraiture. Casta paintings portrayed racial mixing through a progressive set of portraits, always beginning with a Spaniard and an Indian and their child, a mestizo. Usefully read with Ilona Katzew’s Casta Paintings: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), which provides many good reproductions.

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  • Dyer, Richard. White: Essays on Race and Culture. New York: Routledge, 1997.

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    Although primarily focused on ramifications of whiteness in cinema, this book’s second chapter examines depictions in European paintings of the early Atlantic era of racially white ideology, inflected by Christian valorization of purity—Christ and the Virgin Mary, for instance, were increasingly depicted as whiter than anyone else.

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  • Erickson, Peter. “‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George’: British National Identity and the Emergence of White Self-Fashioning.” In Early Modern Visual Culture: Representation, Race, and Empire in Renaissance England. Edited by Peter Erickson and Clark Hulse, 315–345. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

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    Explains how conceptions of emerging white identities are reflected in 16th- and 17th-century drawings and paintings by major European artists.

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  • Oguibe, Olu. The Culture Game. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

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    Although focused primarily on contemporary art, this book’s focus on Eurocentric aesthetic traditions helps to explain the more general and common valuations of art produced during the Atlantic era. Usefully read in conjunction with Ellen Fernandez-Sacco’s brief piece, “Check Your Baggage: Resisting Whiteness in Art History,” Art Journal 60.4 (Winter 2001): 59–61.

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  • Painter, Nell Irvin. The History of White People. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010.

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    Written for general readers, two early chapters in this wide-ranging historical account track racial conceptions of beauty in sculpture and paintings that were explicitly and consistently white, an aesthetic ideal that helped solidify notions of European racial superiority.

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  • Rosenthal, Angela. “Visceral Culture: Blushing and the Legibility of Whiteness in Eighteenth-Century British Portraiture.” Art History 27.4 (September 2004): 563–592.

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    Finds evidence, in portraits of blushing British women, of a gendered conception of the “British Fair,” a skin complexion that registered gendered anxieties about racial purity and nationhood in an increasingly racialized imperial context. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Savage, Kirk. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.

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    Explores the use of 19th-century public monuments in the United States to construct an explicitly raced and gendered conception of idealized national identity, as “the ordinary white man.” Depictions of both enslaved and freed people of African descent were arranged in order to enhance this identity in racially relational terms.

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Literary Treatments

Perhaps because Morrison 1992 appeared earlier than (and in many cases, deeply influenced) the subsequent waves of critical whiteness studies, analyses of literary depictions of whiteness far outnumber those of many other disciplines. At the same time, scholars of literature who focus on the topic tend to draw on many other disciplines for sociohistorical context and theoretical concepts, including history, psychology, sociology, and philosophy. Some, including Cox 2006 and Zafar 1997, acknowledge the generally deeper understandings of white supremacy to be found in literature written from nonwhite perspectives. Others, such as Little 2000, Loomba 2002, Hanlon 2007, Miller 2007, and Wheeler 2000, excavate depictions of whitened identities in writings by European and European American authors. All implicitly agree that the concentrated form of thinking that literary writing tends to be has resulted in many complex and engaging analyses of white and nonwhite identities and of the wider workings of white hegemony.

  • Cox, James H. Muting White Noise: Native American and European American Novel Traditions. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006.

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    Highly accessible interpretations of both Native American and European American novels in terms of racialized worldviews. Privileges Native American perspectives while revealing the reliance of a whitened mindset (both authorial and general) on fantasized narratives about “discovery,” the formation of the United States, and race relations; these dominant narratives have been repeatedly subverted by generations of Native American authors.

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  • Hanlon, Christopher. “‘The Old Race Are All Gone’: Transatlantic Bloodlines and English Traits.” American Literary History 19.4 (Winter 2007): 800–823.

    DOI: 10.1093/alh/ajm030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines Ralph Waldo Emerson’s meditations in English Traits (1856) on British racial lineage, including his particular valorization of the Saxons. Contextualized by consideration of America’s contradictory feelings at the time about its relations to and with England, and the part that white racial identity played in that broader setting. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Little, Arthur L., Jr. Shakespeare Jungle Fever: National-Imperial Re-Visions of Race, Rape, and Sacrifice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.

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    Focused on gendered depictions of racial dynamics in Shakespeare’s plays within an imperial context, this study demonstrates ways in which his black characters serve as definers of the whiteness of other characters. Extensive explications of three plays: Titus Andronicus, Othello, and Antony and Cleopatra.

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  • Loomba, Ania. Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    Two opening chapters provide an overview of the context of emerging British conceptions of race and their connections to religion. Later chapters examine depictions of solidifying white identities in several of Shakespeare’s most renowned plays. Productive companion piece—the article by Peter Erickson, “Images of White Identity in Othello,” in Othello: New Critical Essays, edited by Philip C. Kolin (New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. 133–145.

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  • Miller, Christopher. The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

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    Focused primarily on French literature of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Examines literary depictions of evolving white French identities in response to, and as justification of, the subjugation and enslavement of those deemed nonwhite, as well as subsequent erasure of such realities in the collective French imagination and identity (usefully read, especially in this latter respect, along with Cohen 2003, cited under French Atlantic).

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  • Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

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    Focuses on the use by early and later European American authors of an “Africanist presence,” that is, minor black characters used in stereotypical and codifiable ways to reflect on central white characters.

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  • Wheeler, Roxann. The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

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    Literary and historical analysis of evolving 18th-century British conceptions of whiteness in relation to a “Christian” versus “savage” binary, as reflected in novels, travel writing, and slave narratives. Usefully read along with Coleman 2003 (cited under British Atlantic).

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  • Zafar, Rafia. We Wear the Mask: African Americans Write American Literature, 1760–1870. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

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    Describes strategic adoption by antebellum African American writers of “whiteface” authorial personas in order to gain acceptance by a European American literary establishment, while also embedding in their works coded indications of more genuinely black identities and insight.

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Europeans and Native Americans

Scholars of European and Native American contact generally see early group identities that were relatively free of racial ideas. These were followed by a solidifying of white supremacist ideologies in the mid- to late 1700s, ideologies that in large part motivated and justified British and European American decimation and conquest of native peoples. While there is of course little written record of indigenous conceptions of Europeans during the Atlantic era, scholars have nonetheless produced compelling reconstructions, including Berner 1995, Richter 2001, Bedford and Workman 2002, and Takaki 2008, while Basso 1979 examines more recent conceptions. Others explicate the development and effects of European self-conceptions of white superiority, including Chaplin 1997 and Basson 2008. Moreton-Robinson 2008 argues more generally that such matters suffer so far from scholarly neglect and that comprehending them is crucial to a broader understanding of the conversion of European nationalist identities to a more general racial whiteness.

  • Basso, Keith H. Portraits of “The Whiteman”: Linguistic Play and Cultural Symbols among the Western Apache. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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    Ethnographic study of satiric imitations of white Americans, as commonly performed within interpersonal relations among the Western Apache. Although these indigenous perspectives on European attitudes and behavior occurred late in historical terms, this study’s revelations remain suggestive and relevant.

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  • Basson, Laura. White Enough to Be American? Race Mixing, Indigenous People, and the Boundaries of State and Nation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

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    Focused on racial identities at the end of the Atlantic Era (1885–1905). An examination of how people of mixed European American and Native American ancestry challenged the dominant white insistence on false notions of discernibly distinct racial categories.

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  • Bedford, David, and W. Thom Workman. “Whiteness and the Great Law of Peace.” In Working through Whiteness: International Perspectives. Edited by Cynthia Levine-Rasky, 25–42. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

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    A useful comparison of European and aboriginal worldviews and conceptions of human identity; finds an extreme sense of isolated individualism in the former and a general conception of communal moderation in the latter.

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  • Berner, Robert. “American Myth: Old, New, Yet Untold.” In Native American Perspectives on Literature and History. Edited by Alan R. Velie, 63–76. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

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    Discusses Native American understandings of Europeans and white Americans, history, and self-justifying white conceptions of the history of Native American and European contact.

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  • Chaplin, Joyce E. “Natural Philosophy and an Early Racial Idiom in North America: Comparing English and Indian Bodies.” William and Mary Quarterly 54.1 (January 1997): 229–252.

    DOI: 10.2307/2953318Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the influence during colonial times of European natural philosophy on the conceptions that English settlers developed of their own bodies and those of Indians, conceptions which in turn developed into early theories and claims about the inherent superiority of Europeans. Available online by subscription.

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  • Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. “Writing off Treaties: White Possession in the United States Critical Whiteness Studies Literature.” In Transnational Whiteness Matters. Edited by Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Maryrose Casey, and Fiona Nicoll, 81–98. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2008.

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    Forceful argument that the field of critical whiteness studies, mostly grounded in the United States, relies too heavily on black/white binaries and tropes of migration, with too little awareness and understanding of the foundations of American whiteness in the historical and ongoing dispossession of indigenous people.

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  • Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

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    Reconstructs indigenous perspectives on Europeans, reversing the latter’s self-constructions as morally, ethically, and aesthetically superior. Also shows that by the middle of the 18th century, European conceptions of “red” and “white” racial divisions had solidified into an irreconcilable difference.

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  • Takaki, Ronald. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. New York: Back Bay, 2008.

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    Second chapter illustrates the influence on European conceptions of Native Americans of preexisting mindsets, including those of the British, who brought conceptions of “savagery” formed during their earlier subjugation of the Irish. Claims that Native Americans conceived of Europeans as “white” before the latter adopted such identities for themselves.

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Europeans and Africans

Centuries of exploitation and enforced contact between Europeans and Africans laid the foundations within a general white imagination for what many scholars see as the fundamental, dichotomized basis for notions of white racial superiority. In an overly schematic manner, Europeans’ conceptions of racial “blackness” became a set of characteristics and associations that defined whiteness by contrast and often influenced as well their claims about the supposed, inherent features of other nonwhite groups. Magubane 2004 and Eze 2008 expose the reliance of self-aggrandizing European identities on projected and opposing fantasies about black inferiority. Ayinde 2010, Bay 2000, and Henry 2004 study black conceptions of white people and ideals, while Rogers 1983 examines the effects of white colonial rule on subjugated identities and psyches.

  • Ayinde, Oladosu Afis. “Race.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Thought. Vol. 2. Edited by F. Abiola Irele and Biodun Jeyifo, 269–272. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Includes explanation of African perceptions of European appearances, including their labeling of them as red or yellow, rather than white, in effect marking the inaccuracy and artificiality of European conceptions of “black” and “white” people.

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  • Bay, Mia. The White Image in the Black Mind: African-American Ideas about White People, 1830–1925. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Groundbreaking study of enslaved and freed black observers of white attitudes, beliefs, blind spots, and self-justifications. Reveals that in general, and by necessity, not only have blacks tended to know whites better than whites have known blacks, but also that in many ways, they’ve known whites better than whites have known themselves. Productive companion piece: David Roediger’s edited collection Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White (New York: Schocken, 1999).

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  • Eze, Emmanuel Chukwudi, ed. Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

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    Convenient collection of excerpted period writings on darker races by renowned Western intellectuals, including Hume, Kant, Hegel, and Jefferson. Documents many influential Enlightenment conceptions of white superiority in relation to darker peoples. Originally published in 1997.

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  • Henry, Paget. “Whiteness and Africana Phenomenology.” In What White Looks Like: African-American Philosophers on the Whiteness Question. Edited by George Yancey, 195–210. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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    Accessible comparison of Western and African worldviews in several colonial contexts, including common understandings of whiteness from collective African perspectives.

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  • Magubane, Zine. Bringing the Empire Home: Race, Class, and Gender in Britain and Colonial South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2004.

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    Theoretically driven but accessible examination of 19th-century British conceptions of black bodies in relation to British racial identity. Especially compelling for its analysis of African conceptions of white colonizers, particularly the chapter “White Skin, White Masks: Unmasking and Unveiling the Meanings of Whiteness” (pp. 129–152).

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  • Rogers, Philip. “No Longer at Ease: Chinua Achebe’s ‘Heart of Whiteness.’” Research in African Literatures 14.2 (Summer 1983): 165–183.

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    An early study of the lingering, corrosive effects of white colonial values on nonwhite psyches and lives, as portrayed in Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s novel No Longer at Ease (1960), the sequel to his renowned Things Fall Apart (1958). Usefully read along with Fanon 1994 (cited under General Overviews: Theoretical). Available online by subscription.

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British Atlantic

British conceptions of whiteness during the Atlantic era varied greatly in terms of personal, cultural, and institutional relevance, and they gained greater salience in direct response to contact with both indigenous peoples and those of African descent. Contributions in Johnson and Watson 1998 discern a variably white and Creole identity among some British colonists, and Petley 2009 examines their efforts to defend slaveholders’ privileges. Lambert 2005 and Burnard 2010 also see divisions in conceptions of racialized British identity. Jones 2007 and Coleman 2003 discuss conceptions of British women in terms of racial identity. DiPiero 1999 and Montag 1997 discuss more conceptual dimensions of British divisions of humanity into white and nonwhite.

  • Burnard, Trevor. “West Indian Identity in the Eighteenth Century.” In Assumed Identities: Race and the National Imagination in the Atlantic World. Edited by John D. Garrigus and Christopher Morris, 71–87. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2010.

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    Examines the claims to white British identity by West Indian colonists, as well as the denigration of that identity by Britons and North Americans, who saw white West Indians as less “British” or “English” than they claimed to be.

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  • Coleman, Deirdre. “Janet Schaw and the Complexions of Empire.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 36.2 (Winter 2003): 169–193.

    DOI: 10.1353/ecs.2003.0010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces racialized conceptions of standard British skin tones in travel narratives, abolitionist tracts, and colonial histories of the time, focusing most extensively on the Janet Schaw’s Journal of a Lady of Quality, a travel diary about the West Indian and American colonies. Available online by subscription.

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  • DiPiero, Thomas. “Missing Links: Whiteness and the Color of Reason in the Eighteenth Century.” Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 40.2 (Summer 1999): 155–174.

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    Examines Enlightenment conceptions of white versus nonwhite identities. DiPiero explains that the division was made in terms of what was thought to be different in people, such as racial bloodlines, instead of what people could clearly discern about each other’s bodies. Available online by subscription.

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  • Johnson, Howard, and Karl Watson, eds. The White Minority in the Caribbean. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 1998.

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    A useful collection on white colonial identities and practices, especially Karl Watson’s “Salmagundis vs. Pumpkins: White Politics and Creole Consciousness in Barbadian Slave Society, 1800–1834,” which analyzes the solidification of a variably Creole and white identity among Barbadian colonists, who originally sprang from such disparate locales as England, Scotland, and Ireland.

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  • Jones, Cecily. Engendering Whiteness: White Women and Colonialism in Barbados and North Carolina, 1627–1865. Manchester, UK, and New York: Manchester University Press, 2007.

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    Examines representations of white women in a variety of period documents. Demonstrates that although white women were burdened by patriarchal conceptions of them as the threatened production site of white racial purity, they also participated actively in the subjugation of enslaved African people, particularly in Barbados.

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  • Lambert, David. White Creole Culture, Politics and Identity during the Age of Abolition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Analyzes how white Creole identities were conceived in the colony of Barbados as not quite British, especially in response to rising abolitionist convictions.

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  • Montag, Warren. “The Universalization of Whiteness: Racism and Enlightenment.” In Whiteness: A Critical Reader. Edited by Mike Hill, 281–293. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

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    Discusses an 18th-century instance of the dehumanization of black children in Antigua from travel writings by Janet Schaw as an example of a growing Enlightenment conception of white identity as human identity. “To be white is to be human,” Montag writes, “and to be human is to be white.” For more extensive consideration of Schaw’s writing in terms of race, see Coleman 2003.

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  • Petley, Christer. Slaveholders in Jamaica: Colonial Society and Culture during the Era of Abolition. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2009.

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    Drawing on extensive archival research, this study examines the efforts of white colonists to control Jamaican society, including at times desperate and violent methods of defending their privileges as slaveholders.

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French Atlantic

Prior to the 1980s, scholarship on race and whiteness in the French Atlantic saw relatively little concern among the French with such matters. However, as exemplified early by Cohen 2003 (originally published in 1980), and later by Bonniol 1992, deeper investigation of racial matters has revealed strong French belief in white racial superiority. As happened in the various locales examined in Bellhouse 2006, Aubert 2004, Domínguez 1986, and Garrigus 2006, the French often exhibited a great deal of concern about white racial purity as well. Hartkopf Schloss 2009 provides a recent counterargument by claiming that colonial intermixing of the races resulted instead in decreased emphasis on a white French identity. Bellhouse 2006 and Popkin 2007 examine French racial identities in connection to the Haitian Revolution.

  • Aubert, Guillaume. “‘The Blood of France’: Race and Purity of Blood in the French Atlantic World.” William and Mary Quarterly 61.3 (July 2004): 439–478.

    DOI: 10.2307/3491805Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Studies efforts in the French Atlantic world to forbid racial mixing; argues that while such intermixing was commonly cited as a threat to social order, it was also perceived as a threat to a pure, often “white” French race. Available online by subscription.

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  • Bellhouse, Mary L. “Candide Shoots the Monkey Lovers: Representing Black Men in Eighteenth-Century French Visual Culture.” Political Theory 34.6 (August 2006): 741–784.

    DOI: 10.1177/0090591706293020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explains how changes in the illustrations for two editions of Voltaire’s Candide (produced in 1787 and 1803) register Parisian conceptions of blackness as a means of bolstering white male identity, as well as a shift in French racial attitudes and anxieties brought about by the Haitian Revolution. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Bonniol, Jean-Luc. La couleur comme maléfice: Une illustration créole de la généalogie des “Blancs” et des “Noirs.” Paris: Ablin Michel, 1992.

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    A study (published in French) of racial formations in 18th- and 19th-century Martinique, Guadeloupe, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. French colonialists established a strict line between white and nonwhite, and those in the latter further distinguished gradations among each other, with various ways of becoming closer to, but never fully, white.

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  • Cohen, William B. The French Encounter with Africans: White Response to Blacks, 1530–1880. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

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    A classic study of French colonial convictions of white racial superiority. First published in 1980, it helped to change the common view that in most times and places, French conceptions of race and nationhood were relatively free of racist ideology and practices.

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  • Domínguez, Virginia. White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1986.

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    Overview of the mixing in 19th-century Louisiana of French, African, and Native American ancestries, including the region’s extreme concern with white racial “purity” and its legalized and minutely fractional bases for blood-based identities.

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  • Garrigus, John D. Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

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    Compelling analysis of the 18th-century imposition by French colonialists of white racial purity measures as an effort to maintain hierarchical dominance over increasingly wealthy Creole and ex-slave families.

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  • Hartkopf Schloss, Rebecca. Sweet Liberty: The Final Days of Slavery in Martinique. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

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    Examines race relations in Martinique, from France’s reacquisition from the British to the end of slavery in 1848. Discusses how such different groups as gens de couleur, petits blancs, Creoles, enslaved Africans, and metropolitan citizens intermingled with each other, and argues that thanks in part to interactions in Martinique, whiteness was not necessarily a key component of French identity.

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  • Popkin, Jeremy D. Facing Racial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

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    Presents twenty-four written accounts of the Haitian Revolution, many of which blamed the events on black barbarity, a claim strongly undercut by Popkin’s accompanying analysis and by his juxtaposition of such claims with compelling accounts of what amounted to white barbarity. Also demonstrates the reliance that white French colonial identity had on opposing negative conceptions of blackness.

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Irish Atlantic

Because Ireland was never an imperial power, the uses and meanings of the term “white” for its emigrants differ greatly from those of other European nationalities commonly associated with the Atlantic era. Although mass movements from Ireland to many points in the Atlantic basin (and elsewhere) began in the early 1700s, most analysts of the Irish diaspora, including those who focus on their adoptions of whitened identities, focus on the 19th century, especially in the United States. Roediger 1991, Ignatiev 1995, and Garner 2007 see the Irish as largely desiring and laboring toward whiteness and regarding it as an empowered identity that would place them above nonwhite peoples, especially those of African descent. Hout and Goldstein 1994, Kenny 2003, and Murphy 2010 place more emphasis on other motivating forms of Irish identity, especially enduring nationalist and religious affiliations.

  • Garner, Steve. “Atlantic Crossing: Whiteness as a Transatlantic Experience.” Atlantic Studies 4.1 (April 2007): 118–132.

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    Examines the Irish experience of working their ways into whiteness in two settings—the 17th-century Caribbean and 19th-century United States. Concludes that “labour settings (indenture, slavery, free market) are influential in the specificities of assigning whiteness and blackness” (p. 129). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hout, Michael, and Joshua R. Goldstein. “How 4.5 Million Irish Immigrants Became 40 Million Irish Americans: Demographic and Subjective Aspects of the Ethnic Composition of White Americans.” American Sociological Review 59 (February 1994): 64–82.

    DOI: 10.2307/2096133Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Demographic and attitudinal analysis of ethnic/nationalist ties among several groups of European Americans who have become white; examines historical and contemporary explanations for why Irish ethnic identity in particular has been so strongly held through many assimilated, whitened generations. Available online by subscription.

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  • Ignatiev, Noel. How the Irish Became White. New York: Routledge, 1995.

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    A widely cited and provocative argument that while Irish immigrants to the United States commonly suffered from poverty, harshly oppressive attitudes, and abusive labor conditions, they made a choice to become “white,” rather than embracing a class-based bond with nonwhites. Denigrated by some reviewers for relying too heavily on anecdotes and overly broad demographic patterns at the expense of quantitative data.

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  • Kenny, Kevin. “Diaspora and Comparison: The Global Irish as a Case Study.” Journal of American History 90.1 (June 2003): 134–162.

    DOI: 10.2307/3659794Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Touches only briefly on Irish adoption of whitened identities; nevertheless, provides solid context, with a good overview of the many periods, forms, and destinations of Irish migration. Argues for a combination of diasporic and comparative modes of analysis, along with both nationalist and transnationalist conceptions of Irish emigration and identities. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Murphy, Angela. American Slavery, Irish Freedom: Abolition, Immigrant Citizenship, and the Transatlantic Movement for Irish Repeal. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010.

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    Addresses claims that the rejection by many Irish American immigrants of arguments against slavery was motivated by strivings for a white racial identity. Argues that such abolitionist sentiments were more driven by a complicated nationalist allegiance toward Ireland during its potential parliamentary union with England.

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  • Roediger, David R. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. London: Verso, 1991.

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    Seventh chapter provides an argument, more nuanced than that of Ignatiev 1995, that Irish immigrants to the United States avidly sought a white status, especially when associated with black Americans by those already firmly assimilated as white. Addresses mid- to late-19th-century period.

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Portuguese Atlantic

Early-20th-century observers of the Portuguese Empire often saw it as relatively free of white supremacist ideology and practice, particularly in colonial and postcolonial Brazil. In general, scholars of the Portuguese Atlantic have been far less concerned with the matter of whiteness than are those who examine the British, French, and Spanish experience. However, later scholars of the subject have found evidence of white racial identities among the Portuguese, a trend perhaps initiated by Boxer 1963 and followed by Russell-Wood 1978, Skidmore 1983, Garner 2007, and others since. Preston Blier 1993 examines apparent African conceptions of the Portuguese as white.

  • Boxer, C. R. Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1415–1825. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.

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    An early argument that Portuguese colonists were consistent upholders of European white supremacy, even though they commonly produced offspring with the colonized.

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  • Garner, Steve. “Atlantic Crossing: Whiteness as a Transatlantic Experience.” Atlantic Studies 4.1 (April 2007): 118–132.

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    Discusses the varying position of the Portuguese within racial hierarchies in late-19th-century British Guiana; briefly traces their gradual movement in this context toward whitened identities. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Preston Blier, Suzanne. “Imaging Otherness in Ivory: African Portrayals of the Portuguese ca. 1492.” Art Bulletin 75.3 (September 1993): 375–396.

    DOI: 10.2307/3045965Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Fascinating analysis of intricate ivory carvings and other representations of the Portuguese, made in the 16th and 17th centuries by Africans in Kongo, Benin, and Sierra Leone. Though not strictly racialized perceptions, these representations reflect African conceptions of Portuguese types, as well as the probable association of their white skin with African ideas of a land of the dead.

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  • Russell-Wood, A. J. R. “Iberian Expansion and the Issue of Black Slavery: Changing Portuguese Attitudes, 1440–1770.” American Historical Review 83.1 (February 1978): 16–42.

    DOI: 10.2307/1865901Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An early overview of varying Portuguese conceptions of black and white identities. Traces the influences of Christian doctrine and lingering medieval attitudes and concepts on racialized perceptions that varied widely across the span of colonial territory. Available online by subscription.

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  • Skidmore, Thomas. “Race and Class in Brazil: Historical Perspectives.” Luso-Brazilian Review 20.1 (Summer 1983): 104–118.

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    An overview of conceptions of race relations in historical and contemporary Brazil as a relatively racism-free “racial democracy,” and an argument that instead, white skin dominance and favoritism were prevalent, and that they remain so. Available online by subscription.

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Spanish Atlantic

As explained by Hulme 1994, conceptions of Europeans as “white” during the Spanish Empire go back at least as far as Columbus’ 1492 contact with darker indigenous people. With the exception of Cope 1994, the studies included here, including Morrison 2010, Piedra 1987, and Twinam 2009, see “white” as an increasingly favored and sought-after identity across the times and locales of the Spanish Atlantic. DeGuzmán 2005 examines later conceptions of the empire as racially doomed.

  • Cope, Douglas. The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660–1720. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

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    Counters the common conception of members of the Spanish-imposed caste system, the castas, as envious of those with a higher racial, and thus social, status. Instead, they often used the legal system to best their supposed superiors and to challenge colonialist configurations of racial hierarchy.

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  • DeGuzmán, María. Spain’s Long Shadow: The Black Legend, Off-Whiteness, and Anglo-American Empire. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

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    Not strictly about the Spanish Empire itself, this study sees, especially in early and later works of American literature, shifting conceptions of Spanish “off-whiteness.” Considered destined to fall, in part because it was tainted by Moorish, Jewish, and “Oriental” blood, the Spanish Empire served as a reflection of US anxieties about its own increasingly imperial status and as confirmation of the supposed superiority of Anglo-American whiteness.

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  • Hulme, Peter. “Tales of Distinction: European Ethnography and the Caribbean.” In Implicit Understandings: Observing, Reporting and Reflecting on the Encounters between Europeans and Other Peoples in the Early Modern Era. Edited by Stuart B. Schwartz, 157–197. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

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    Focuses primarily on various written representations by Christopher Columbus and Bartolomé de Las Casas of indigenous peoples, and of their supposed differences from Europeans. In the process of delineating indigenous qualities, early European “ethnographers” were also defining superiority and righteous dominance for their own white Christian selves.

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  • Morrison, Karen Y. “Slave Mothers and White Fathers: Defining Family and Status in Late Colonial Cuba.” Slavery and Abolition 31.1 (March 2010): 29–55.

    DOI: 10.1080/01440390903481647Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the power white colonial men had in determining the racial status of children they produced with black or mixed-race partners, as well as the degree of choice the latter often had in such unions. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Piedra, José. “Literary Whiteness and the Afro-Hispanic Difference.” New Literary History 18.2 (Winter 1987): 303–332.

    DOI: 10.2307/468731Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contextualizes a discussion of racially rebellious Afro-Hispanic poets with an extensive description of the Spanish Empire’s efforts to gloss over its multiform heterogeneity with a unifying Spanish language, a form of linguistic pride that Piedra identifies as a “rhetorical” or “literary” whiteness. Available online by subscription.

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  • Twinam, Amy. “Purchasing Whiteness: Conversations on the Essence of Pardo-ness and Mulatto-ness at the End of Empire.” In Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America. Edited by Andrew B. Fisher and Matthew David O’Hara, 141–166. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.

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    Exploration of the late-18th-century practice in Latin America of purchasing the right to be recognized as “white” from Spanish colonial authorities. Demonstrates the shifting yet increasingly desired status of whiteness.

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LAST MODIFIED: 12/19/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199730414-0167

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