White Spaces Network

Critical Whiteness Studies and post-race discourses

24 November 2010
Universities of Sydney and Madison-Wisconsin, with participants from Universities of Technology-Sydney, Victoria, Massey and Leeds

Recording of the Seminar

Seminar Outline

This seminar explored the issues emerging for scholars working in Critical Whiteness Studies in response to the claim that many communities, states and nations are now ‘post-race’, that is, the notion that particular multi-racial, industrialized nations (especially, the United States) have surpassed the need to ‘worry’ about race any longer; that these societies are no longer marked by racial inequalities. In, or indeed out of, the world of race scholarship, the ‘post-race’ discourse has been a hard one to miss since Barak Obama’s election to presidency in 2008.

The seminar involved postgraduates, emerging and established scholars, working across a range of disciplines, in a variety of national locations, who discussed how ‘post race’ narratives operate in particular settings and the new questions this raises for these scholars. Questions include: Why study race anymore? If we are ‘post-race’, why should academics (who we pay with public monies) keep studying racism and race relations so earnestly? What might happen if race studies disappears?

These questions might be all the more sharply asked of the social sciences and political sciences than in the arts and humanities and the questions will have a different resonance in different disciplines. If race is understood as a thing of the past –located in historical moments, literature, and art – than investigating race in these fields is ostensibly more understandable in the ‘post-race’ mindset. Even so those studying these issues may have to more staunchly explain or defend their choice to study race and race relations.

Chair: Catriona Elder (University of Sydney)

Key Discussant : Say Burgin (University of Leeds) The post-race discourse: a semi-autobiographical analysis.

Second Discussant: Shona Hunter (University of Leeds).

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