WhiteSpaces is the broader common intellectual offering which has its origins in the White Spaces Network
That network was established by Shona Hunter in 2009 in order to provide a space for the sub disciplinary development of the academic field of Critical Whiteness Studies in the UK, and internationally. The network responded to the need for collaboration and ideas sharing across research, teaching and postgraduate work into whiteness and white identities in the context of global coloniality which was inclusive of scholars located intellectually, or institutionally outside of the areas of sociology, cultural studies and critical race studies. This included academic fields like social policy, social work, management and organisation studies. In its tenth year of existence in 2019 that network continues to provide an important hub of sub disciplinary development in Critical Whiteness Studies.
This is especially in relation to the consideration of whiteness as a constitutive frame for institutional life.
The theoretical trajectories and debates engendered by this rich critical whiteness studies literature are diverse, but its founding theoretical assumptions are social constructionist. It views whiteness not as a thing in itself, but as ongoing process, a way of becoming, rather than of already being. In this vein, first wave scholarship on whiteness, exemplified by the work of DuBois , demonstrates how labourers in the United States came to embrace the white racial identity of the dominant group rather than organising with Slaves because of the extensive social and material privileges accorded through membership of the former group. DuBois thought of these advantages as the public and psychological wages of whiteness. The second wave built on this work to explore how a range of legal processes such as property ownership and citizenship , and cultural practices such as the development of dominant literary tropes serve to construct whiteness. Thus, white identities are social, political and ethical locations caught up in and reproducing local, national and geopolitical relations.
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As the conversation about whiteness has become more explicit in the social, cultural and institutional common life in the UK and elsewhere the rich ideas, experience and offerings of this earlier WhiteSpaces work are becoming much more broadly relevant.
The establishment of WhiteSpaces as an umbrella initiative for engagements with whiteness responds to this broader recognition of the relevance of whiteness to thinking critically about the public culture. It responds to the need to start conversations about whiteness which consider this as part of a temporally, geographically and institutionally extensive conversation about everyday experiences of power and inequality in societies framed through global coloniality.
WhiteSpaces anchors this conversation about whiteness in work which extends beyond the idea of whiteness as the strategic denial of privilege. It sees whiteness working psychosocially as relational location which has material, discursive, and psychic dimensions. And which operates at different scales of individual and collective relations, coalescing as the cultural condition of post imperial times.
This broadening out of WhiteSpaces work is happening through the facilitation of spaces for varied and extensive conversations about the interrelations between power and vulnerability; into how we can engage in generating less uneven distributions of responsibility for anti-racist social justice work through these conversations; and how interdisciplinary, public and institutional collaborations can work to further this. The Power Cafe is one initiative seeking to achieve this broadening. It is piloting late 2019-2020.