Warren - The Urban Review, Vol. 31, No. 2, 1999 Whiteness...

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The Urban Review, Vol. 31, No. 2, 1999 Whiteness and Cultural Theory: Perspectives on Research and Education John T. Warren With the influx of whiteness literature into the cultural studies scene, this essay attempts to locate four major trends or lines of thought within a diverse body of work. Further, the impact of this research on education is considered in order to determine how whiteness studies might inform multicultural education initiatives. Ultimately, the essay is designed to provide a conceptual frame that organizes this research while arguing that whiteness is of premier concern to educators in the efforts to promote diversity, equality, and social justice in education. And so it went, one fascinating tale of ethnic pride after another. And then, curse the darkness, it was my turn. I began to hyperventilate. It wasn't the fear of public speaking and it wasn't the Paul Masson wine that had me gasping in a paper bag. It was my essential rootlessness in a room full of well-rooted people. What was I? Where did I stem from? What did I re- member? What could I say? I said goodnight. (Mull and Rucker, 1985, pp. 11-12) You forgot, Lord. You forgot how and when to be God. That's why I changed the little black girl's eyes for her and I didn't touch her; not a finger did I lay on her. But I gave her the blue, blue, two blue eyes. Cobalt blue. . . . And she will live happily ever after. (Morrison, 1970, p. 144) Research on whiteness has recently exploded onto the academic scene (Frank- enberg, 1997a; Hill, 1997b; Wray and Newitz, 1997; Fine, Weis, Powell, and Wong, 1997). Researchers have created (discovered) a whole new site of inves- tigation, which is designed not to gaze outward at the margins but critically examine what lies at the center of racial institutional power: whiteness. This John T. Warren is a Doctoral Student, Department of Speech Communication, Southern Illinois University. Address correspondence to John T. Warren, Department of Speech Communication, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale IL 62901; e-mail: jtwarren@siu.edu. 185 0042-0972/99/0600-0185$l6.00/0 © 1999 Human Sciences Press, Inc.
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186 THE URBAN REVIEW research derives from the desire to examine the location of privilege granted to people simply because they appear white, rather than to theorize about those populations that are already outside of the racial center. It speaks to Stuart Hall's (1992) and other theorists' notion of positionality, which asks researchers to examine and retheorize their (our) own political and cultural identities. This research initiative also demands that cultural studies pause before focusing on the cultural margins or those cultures that do not occupy positions of social, institutional, or economic power—in a sense, an act of speaking for others— without first critically understanding the power and privilege embedded in the cultural center of whiteness (see Alcoff, 1991-1992). In this paper, I seek to sketch out several themes or ways of theorizing whiteness that emerge from this
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Warren - The Urban Review, Vol. 31, No. 2, 1999 Whiteness...

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