Methodological Whiteness

‘Methodological whiteness’, Bhambra argues, is a way of reflecting on the world that fails to acknowledge the role played by race in the very structuring of that world, and of the ways in which knowledge is constructed and legitimated within it. It fails to recognise the dominance of ‘whiteness’ as anything other than the standard state of affairs and treats a limited perspective – that deriving from white experience – as a universal perspective. At the same time, it treats other perspectives as forms of identity politics explicable within its own universal (but parochial and lesser than its own supposedly universal) understandings.

 

In effect, ‘methodological whiteness’ entails a denial of its own politics of identity and constitutes the standard social scientific discussion of race – which tends to understand it primarily in terms of issues of identity or inequality applying to the situation of non-white others. In contrast, Bhambra want us to understand both the ways in which race, as a structural process, has organised the modern world and the impact that this has had on our ways of knowing the world.

 

This extract is taken from: Bhambra, Gurminder K. 2017. ‘Why are the white working classes still being held responsible for Brexit and Trump?‘ LSE Brexit Blog

 

Essential Reading
Bhambra, Gurminder K. 2017. Brexit, Trump and ‘methodological whiteness’: on the misrecognition of race and class’, British Journal of Sociology. 68 (S1): S214–S232
Bhambra, Gurminder K 2016. ‘Postcolonial Reflections on Sociology,’ Sociology Special Issue: Bringing it ‘Home’? Sociological Practice and the Practice of Sociology, 50 (5): 960–966

 

Further Reading
Allen, D. 2005 ‘Invisible Citizens: On Exclusion and Domination in Ralph Ellison and Hannah Arendt’ in M. Williams and S. Macedo (eds) Nomos XLVI: Political Exclusion and DominationNew York: New York University Press.
Katznelson, I. 2017 ‘Making Affirmative Action White Again’, The New York Times Sunday Review, 12 August.
Roediger, D. 2017 ‘Who’s Afraid of the White Working Class?’, Los Angeles Review of Books, 17 May.

 

Questions
Why is it important to address race as more than an issue of identity or inequality?
How does race come to structure the world within which we live?
How does ‘methodological whiteness’ structure the very shape of academic disciplines?

 

Submitted by Gurminder K Bhambra 

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