Richard Dyer, and A Quick Programming Note

August 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

White people have problems too you guys!

Yesterday I read White, Richard Dyer’s totally boss examination of media/cultural representations of white people in Western culture. It’s one of those books that everyone (especially whites) should read, as it addresses head on –and more interestingly, provides an heroic historical account of and for– the way in which “whiteness” somehow became “colorless” (as in, only non-whites have a color, and as I have heard many people lament, a culture), resulting in this weird association of whiteness with universality. White (skin, culture, behavior) is unmarked, while everything else demands adjectives; white is the rule, everything else is the exception. It’s a beautifully and engagingly written book, and/but I’m not saying much about it here because I wrote so much in the margins — connections to Mary Douglas, especially, since whiteness is (historically, politically) associated with purity and therefore has built-in protective mechanisms against anything which threatens to sully the proverbial britches. That is, whiteness can exist only in relation to “dirt,” making racism, or at least racial hierarchization, not just inevitable but that which actually sustains (and, ironically, threatens to destroy) the very category.

There’s also quite a bit in Dyer’s argument which I’ll be using in my dissertation, though I won’t say how or in which sections because I don’t like sharing half-baked ideas. Suffice it to say, this is One of Those Books whose reach extends far beyond these stupid exams. The next few books I’m reading will be like that, actually, since as a human I like to get awful/perfunctory/business things out of the way first. Por ejemplo on this list I initially tackled a) the selections I already owned b) the selections I have no interest in ever thinking about again and c) the selections I suspected would frame the actual exam question. I saved the best and most enjoyable for last, and may just indulge myself with less obsessive liveblogging of those, on account of this shit is starting to give me an ulcer.

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