White Innocence

Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race

White Innocence

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 2 photographs Published: April 2016

Author: Gloria Wekker

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In White Innocence Gloria Wekker explores a central paradox of Dutch culture: the passionate denial of racial discrimination and colonial violence coexisting alongside aggressive racism and xenophobia. Accessing a cultural archive built over 400 years of Dutch colonial rule, Wekker fundamentally challenges Dutch racial exceptionalism by undermining the dominant narrative of the Netherlands as a "gentle" and "ethical" nation. Wekker analyzes the Dutch media's portrayal of black women and men, the failure to grasp race in the Dutch academy, contemporary conservative politics (including gay politicians espousing anti-immigrant rhetoric), and the controversy surrounding the folkloric character Black Pete, showing how the denial of racism and the expression of innocence safeguards white privilege. Wekker uncovers the postcolonial legacy of race and its role in shaping the white Dutch self, presenting the contested, persistent legacy of racism in the country.


?"White Innocence explains why white Dutch people seem unable to grasp the racism of Zwarte Piet: Assured of their own social progressivism, they can a priori think and therefore do no wrong. . . . ? Wekker concludes her work with a plea for 'another "embarrassment of riches,"' for acknowledging the racism staring us in the face. In the United States, we might start by recognizing that there is, and always has been, no more audacious identity politics than white identity politics, as Trump and his white-supremacist ilk gleefully demonstrate. At least the illusion of innocence has been stripped away. Or perhaps not?"
  — Nick Barr Clingan, The Nation

"White Innocence exposes how Dutch racism is infused with classism, sexism, and homophobia in discussions of everyday racism that includes [Wekker's] own personal exoticization as a child and criminalization as an adult, TV talk shows and films, experiences of mixed-race families, white gay liberation that constitutes Dutch homonationalism . . . and the 'siloing' of gender and race/ethnicity in politics and academics that makes intersectional policy and scholarship impossible. In doing so, Wekker reveals the very real personal consequences for people of color when their very existence is in service of white people." — Melissa F. Weiner, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Wekker’s book-length study of white innocence is untimely. If timeliness means being appropriate, and exhibiting the norms of propriety, then White Innocence speaks to an interlocutor – the white Dutch self – who would find the book inappropriate, and confronting. And that is precisely the book’s aim.  . . . In the Dutch context, as Wekker clearly shows, it is precisely a denial of colonial history, with its attendant intellectual, affective and discursive consequences, that marks the contemporary multicultural scene of politics. The book then is not repeating an argument in an all-too-familiar context. Rather, it is inserting a critical analysis into a national context which has strenuously denied any implication in the dark history of colonialism and racism." — Sudeep Dasgupta, Krisis

"White Innocence provides a welcome and thought-provoking impetus to think more acutely about the long-term impacts of imperialism, as well as about the interrelations between colonies and metropole." — Bart Luttikhuis, History: Reviews of New Books

"White Innocence offers a critical way of viewing contemporary interactions of whiteness with 'othered' bodies. . . . Wekker carefully and ingenuously heightens a reader's awareness of everyday micro- and macro-occurrences of white innocence." — Jakki Forester, Wagadu

"White Innocence makes a significant contribution to the field of critical whiteness studies by examining the role of race, especially whiteness, and the legacy of colonialism in the present-day Netherlands." — Shannon Sullivan, philoSOPHIA

"White Innocence is an enticing invitation to confront the contradictions of Dutch discourse on race, colonialism and violence. . . . Wekker’s work is of vital relevance for those willing to unlearn the legacy of
colonialism." — Lucía Berro Pizzarossa, European Journal of Women's Studies

"This book has been a long time coming. . . . An exemplary work of critical scholarship." — Paul Mepschen, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Speaking to her compatriots, Wekker aims to demonstrate, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the prevalence of race as an effective distinction and to lay bare the structures that allow its disavowal. . . . Side by side with the careful and detail-rich case for the significance of race as an indispensable analytical category, the book’s other key academic contribution is to be found in the compelling argument that Wekker makes for understanding racial politics through a postcolonial lens." — Nitzan Shoshan, PoLAR

"White Innocence is a major contribution that provides us with new and distinct methods for investigating the cultural archives of colonialism, showing how they are at once national archives that include written documents and accumulated impressions, encounters, and experiences. Gloria Wekker takes the trouble of creating an itinerary of expressions of whiteness as innocence. It is a powerful itinerary. This book will reach out to readers, and draw them in." — Sara Ahmed

"Refreshingly innovative, conceptually sophisticated, and compellingly argued. . . . The outcome of a lifetime spent in the theoretical and political trenches, White Innocence breaks entirely new ground." — M. Jacqui Alexander

"Gloria Wekker's patient anatomization of the Dutch racial order is a major contribution to the growing global conversation about whiteness and its overcoming. Her authoritative survey of the willful innocence that underpins racism in the Netherlands should be widely read and studied." — Paul Gilroy


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Gloria Wekker is Professor Emeritus of Gender Studies at Utrecht University and the author of several books, including The Politics of Passion: Women's Sexual Culture in the Afro-Surinamese Diaspora.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction  1

1. "Suppose She Brings a Big Negro Home": Case Studies of Everyday Racism  30

2. The House That Race Built  50

3. The Coded Language of Hottentot Nymphae and the Discursive Presence of Race, 1917  81

4. Of Homo Nostalgia and (Post)Coloniality: Or, Where Did All the Critical White Gay Men Go?  108

5. "For Even Though I Am Black as Soot, My Intentions Are Good": The Case of Black Pete  139

Coda. "But What about the Captain?"  168

Notes  175

References  193

Index  215
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6075-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6059-9
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