Researching Race and Racism

By Martin Bulmer; John Solomos | Go to book overview
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On unsteady ground

Crafting and engaging in the critical study of whiteness 1

Ruth Frankenberg

White Privilege

Today I got permission to do it in graduate school,

That which you have been lynched for,

That which you have been shot for,

That which you have been jailed for,

Sterilized for,

Raped for,

Told you were mad for -

By which I mean

Challenging racism -

Can you believe

The enormity

Of that?

(Frankenberg, 1985)

First, here is a one-sentence introduction. My research engages whiteness. Next, a comment on that introduction: the statement 'my research engages whiteness' could not have been made, meaningfully, at the time, around 1980, when I began the political inquiry that would lead me toward that work. This is so because, at that moment, the notion of 'whiteness' was not present in the political or intellectual worlds of which I was a part. This chapter cannot, then, proceed as though an area of study or an entity to be examined was 'there,' and I simply moved toward it and began an investigation. For me, as indeed for many scholars, the crafting of the field took place alongside and as a result of the research undertaken. In this chapter, I will discuss that process and its effects by reference to close readings of my own work, using them simultaneously as data and as analytical resource.

Take two: A standard mode of introduction to the work of any scholar is by reference to her/his scholarly products. Noting that I have already violated the conventions of that project by beginning this essay with a poem rather than a scholarly quotation, let me state that my first book, White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness, was published in


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