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WhiteSpaces Research Network

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Is an international interdisciplinary network of scholars, activists, students and practitioners who share an interest in issues of whiteness in the context of the intersectional power dynamics of global coloniality. It was housed in the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies at the University of Leeds from 2009-2016 as part of the work of its founder and academic lead Dr Shona Hunter. There remains a limited archiveof the network's activity which can be explored. The Network has moved with Dr Hunter’s institutional location. It is currently housed in the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University as part of Dr Hunter’s work there.

New Territories in Critical Whiteness Studies, UoL 2010.

Back L-R Richard Tavernier, Barbara Samaluk, Noémi Michel;

Front L-R Shona Hunter, Maddy Abbas, Say Burgin, Dieuwertje Dyi Huijg.

White Spaces Network Logo 2009-2019

The network has grown from a small conference stream organised as part of the Gender Work and Organization conference at the Keele University (United Kingdom) in 2007. It was officially established through a launch conference held in Leeds (United Kingdom) in 2009 [conference reportand publication]. In its early stages it was supported by three tranches of funds from the Worldwide Universities Network including one tranche from a partnership bid with Dr Catriona Elder at the University of Sydney which supported exchanges and workshops between Leeds and Sydney between 2010-2011. The WhiteSpaces digital masterclasses were established through this partnership continuing until 2013.

In conceptual terms the network engages with ideas from critical race and whiteness studies to advance multidimensional analysis of processes of gendering and racialisation which form part of the complex and shifting social dynamics in contemporary multicultural societies established historically through the violent relations of intersecting global colonialities. In particular members have been working with this set of ideas to understand how the reassertion of liberal narratives of tolerance serves to redraw the boundaries for national, institutional and organisational inclusion/exclusion in predictable, but also in new and surprising, ways.

Delegates at New Territories in Critical Whiteness Studies Conference (2010)

On a practical level the network engages in a range of international and interdisciplinary research collaboration activities including exchanges, workshops, seminars and teaching between partners These activities are both virtual and face to face. Face to face events have been held in Australia, England, South Africa, and Sweden. Virtual events including a series of 10 online Masterclasses te have included partners in Australia, England, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. There is an established early career/postgraduate arm of the network, originally forged through the efforts of Dr Say Burgin whilst she studied and later worked at the University of Leeds. Say’s work into Social Movement and African American History is ongoing and she is now based at Dickinson in the USA.

The network has also included a range of community activists and policy makers working across public, private and third sector institutions. Indeed, many of the academics involved in the collaboration either have been or still are involved in activities outside of an academic context. Between 2012-2015 this practice engaged work was developed internationally as part of efforts to build global North-South collaboration in partnership with colleagues across 6 South African Universities as part of the British Academy funded bid ‘Challenging Institutional Whiteness in Postcolonial Contexts’ with Co-Investigator Professor Melissa Steyn at Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, one of the originators of Critical Whiteness Studies in South Africa.

The network has also been involved in working collaboratively across the fields of art and design and especially via Shona’s five year association (first as a research associate and then as Visiting Associate Professor) with the Research Centre for Visual Identities in Arts and Design (VIAD) led by Associate Professor Leora Farber at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Events, exhibitions and collaborations where WhiteSpaces participated include:

WhiteWash I

By The Rivers of Birminam - Photography Vanley Burke

(Re)-Fashioning Masculinities: Identity, Difference, Resistance

The Front Room 'Inna Joburg' - Micheal Mcmillan

The Arrivants - Christine Checinska

Intimate Archives//Autobiographical Acts: Personal Surfacings as Expressed Through Material Culture

This association with VIAD also brought the opportunity to work with STAND (Scholarship of Teaching in Arts and Design) on decolonizing the curriculum. This included workshops on Building the Anti-Racist University with Brenden Gray and Tuliza Sindi.

The network has always worked to maintain a collaborative ethos with other important contributions to its work including those of Amanpreet Aluwhalia, Naomi Anderson Whittaker as network interns and Gaia Giuliani Universidade de Coimbra as a visiting researcher (2011-2012).

​As the network is reorienting itself to its new situation in the Centre for Race Education and Decoloniality in the Carnegie School of Education it is continuing to develop its core activities of providing space for networking, research and teaching collaboration.

2019 - 10 years of WhiteSpaces

Disorienting Race: Re(lationally) Choreographing Resistance marked the 10th year of WhiteSpaces.own text and edit me. It's easy.

Photo byAlexander Krivitskiy

Disorienting Race brought together publicly engaged interdisciplinary scholars, artists, poets, producers and performers to explore the ways in which intersecting hierarchies of race are disrupted and reinforced through everyday practices such as how we look, talk think and act though our biographies and identities, our institutions, in our common places at the local shop, in the school and in our governing spaces. Taking its starting point as the reality of the global colonial present where the construct of race frames, interactions, ideas and feelings, the event brings together differently positioned voices to think about how these complexly positioned perspectives can come together to intervene in our common life for anti-racist anti-colonial futures.

The event format was mixed including discussion, film showing, performance and Q & A. The format models a way of publicly considering how the recognition of the everyday human violence of living in a white supremacist world can work with a reparative urge to work together for social justice. This challenging, discomforting, but loving urge is exemplified in the works of public scholar activist/practitioners like James Baldwin, WEB Du Bois, Audre Lorde, bel hooks, Stuart Hall, Vron Ware and Gail Lewis all of whom provide inspiration for the evenings conversations. The event takes its Leeds/Bradford West Yorkshire locatedness seriously as an important vantage point from which to intervene in national and global debates on race. It forms part of a broader on going conversation between a number of the event contributors and WhiteSpaces. It follows on from the London based Social Performance Network curation PerformingRace 2018. It marks the 10 year anniversary of the establishment of the WhiteSpaces Network and its recent move to Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie School of Education.

Moderation by: Anj Handa Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers


Dr Jo Shah Social Performance Network/ Learning and Skills Programme Director Royal Central School for Speech and Drama

Mandy Samra Lets go Yorkshire/The White Line Project

Zoe East Opal Film Tribe Arts, a philosophically inspired, radical-political theatre company based in Leeds Khadijah Ibrahiim, Poet, Author, Artistic Director Leeds Young Authors Dr Shona Hunter WhiteSpaces/ Reader in the Carnegie School of Education

Disorienting Race film

Disorienting Race Panel Discussion: L-R Jo Shah, Shona Hunter,

Khadijah Ibrahiim, Sam Rathore, Taj Rathore. Image Credit: Roly

Beyond 2019

From October 2019 Critical Whiteness Studies will be taught by Shona in the School of Education as part of the new MA in Race Education and Decoloniality

New activities are under development with colleagues Professor Sarah Heinz at the University of Vienna and Professor Christi van der Westhuizen of Nelson Mandela University, South Africa.

More activities in collaboration with the Social Performance Network and Dr J Shah. For an interview with Dr Shah about this and her other collaborative work visit Royal Central School of Speech and Drama news.

Routledge International Handbook

of Critical Whiteness Studies

(click here for more information)

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