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White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race.

Review of White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race by Gloria Wekker. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016

Gloria Wekker's White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race interrogates contemporary ideations of whiteness at the intersections of gender, class, religion, and sexuality. It examines denial of racial discrimination in the Netherlands while simultaneously juxtaposing it with centuries of historical and global colonial violence. Wekker analyzes how contemporary whiteness in the Netherlands (and arguably other nations that colonize) hides behind the guise of white innocence to continue social privilege, entitlement, and systematic violence, created and maintained through global colonialism, which perpetuates structural racism. Additionally, Wekker explains through embodied experiences, case studies, narratives, and interviews how the Dutch cultural archive is not a physical location of artifacts, but rather how the society thinks, engages in activities, views the world, understands attraction to others, its organization of affective and rational economies, as well as how memories, knowledge, and affect toward race within the culture is deeply embedded through systemic and institutional power hierarchies (p. 19). Finally, woven through each chapter is the Dutch representation of the self as constructed and enforced through a strict "us" (privileged members of Dutch society, i.e. white, male, middle- to high-class, and/or Christian individuals) versus "them" (any "othered" identity or body) mentality.

White Innocence is composed of five chapters. The Introduction establishes the various theoretical and methodological concepts Wekker uses throughout. The first chapter describes specific instances of everyday racism in the Netherlands and the tenacity of force that divides citizens' consciousness as being without racism, juxtaposed upon centuries of colonial violence. The second chapter analyzes discursive patterns of systemic racism perpetuated in government agencies and higher education. The next chapter applies a psychoanalytical theoretical lens to a case study that forces conversations of both raced and gendered bodies to the forefront of academic discourse in Europe in the early 20th century. The discussion is well connected and brings everything together in chapter four, which focuses on the intersection of race, sexuality, gender, nationality, and religion, as white, gay men rose to power with the gay liberation movement under strong proclamations to assimilate into dominant Dutch culture, while simultaneously "othering" Muslims as barbaric and unwilling to assimilate into the dominant culture....

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Forester, Jakki, Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

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Author:Forester, Jakki
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2017
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