Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian Analysis of Race

Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian Analysis of Race

Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian Analysis of Race

Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian Analysis of Race


Desiring Whiteness provides a compelling new interpretation of how we understand race. It explores visual discrimination by asking questions in specifically psychoanalytic terms: how do subjects become raced? Is it common sense to read bodies as racially marked? Employing Lacan's theories of the subject and sexual difference, Seshadri-Crooks explores how the discourse of race parallels that of sexual difference in making racial identity a fundamental component of our thinking.Through close readings of literary and film texts, Seshardi-Crooks demonstrates that race is a system of differences organized around a privileged term: Whiteness. Contra 'Whiteness Studies', she argues that Whiteness should not be understood as the bodily or material property of a particular group, but as a term that makes the logic of race thinking possible.


We have counted four human races under which all the manifold variations of this genus are supposed to [be] conceived. But all deviations need nevertheless a stem genus; and either we must declare it now extinct, or else we must seek among those extant the one which we can best compare to the stem-genus…. That portion of the earth between the 31st and 52nd parallels in the Old World…is rightly held to be that in which the most happy mixture of influences of the colder and hotter regions and also the greatest wealth of earthly creatures is encountered; where man too must have departed the least from his original formation…. Here, to be sure we find white inhabitants.

(Kant, “On the different races of man,” Eze edn: 47-8)

Just talking about race means that it will always be there in residue.

(Guillaumin 1995:105)

In June of 1995, the New York Times reported the “anguish” of a Dutch couple who had to confront the fact that one of their twin boys, conceived through in vitro fertilization, was “black.” the University Hospital at Utrecht, which was responsible for inflicting this “anguish,” called it a “deeply regrettable mistake”; they surmised that a technician had used a none-too-clean pipette in performing the procedure. the parents at first denied that “something about Koen was different.” Unlike his twin brother Teun, Koen got darker as the weeks went by, which induced the parents to visit a gynecologist and then to undergo a dna test. the test results confirmed that Koen’s father was a “black man” from Aruba. For the parents, the news apparently was “devastating.” According to the New York Times:

They started sessions with a psychotherapist to deal with what the father called their “bewilderment and pain,” and the questions that kept spinning around in their heads. How would they tell their son that he was not meant to exist, that he was born because of a technical error? Would they treat the children differently? the parents say they worry

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.