'Ice white and ordinary':
new perspectives on
ethnicity, gender and
youth cultural identities
The bulk of educational research on race and ethnicity conducted during the 1980s and 90s has centred firmly – one may say exclusively – upon visible minority groups. This approach has enabled valuable studies to be completed on those generations heralding from Africa and the Caribbean in particular, as well as former migrants from the Indian subcontinent (Fuller 1980; Mac an Ghaill 1988; Gillborn 1990; Sewell 1997; Connolly 1998). At the same time, the established literature on race and education remains curiously silent on the issue of whiteness. More recently, the political antiracist certainties established in these early accounts have been called into question. In the light of recent postmodernist and postcolonial debates on cultural identity – and the paradigmatic concern with contingency, fluidity, fragmentation and multiplicity – the emergent research on race has begun to grapple with an agenda that challenges the acceptance of a black/white racial dualism. In these new global times of hybrid cultural exchange it is no longer sufficient to abstract our understandings of race, class and gender from a complex, transnational understanding of diasporic movement and settlement.
While work on minority groups has continued apace in a number of disciplines, the striking contradiction is that we now seem to know far less about the racialized identities of the ethnic majority (notably English whites) and who they are in the present postimperial era. This chapter seeks to address this oversight by drawing inspiration from recent poststructuralist and psychoanalytic perspectives in the area to encourage researchers on gender to become more reflexive about the construction of white identities in schools.