White Atmospheres: Choreographing Racial Materialities in Academic Space

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This essay offers a critical introduction to the circulation of racial materialities, and especially whiteness, in North American and European academic contexts. It proposes that we can escape from the dominant epistemology of identity as a fixed attribute of individuals without losing the urgent and much-needed analytics of identity as social and material force. In the gap between “identity politics” and a richer critical politics of identity lies the difference between a discursive public sphere of agonistic conflict and one of potentially transformative relationality. Drawing on critical race theory and especially black radical thought, my analysis rejects the reduction of identity to discrete census categories and attempts to situate contemporary scholarly practices in the context of a planetary decolonial movement. If “identity” today is all too frequently dismissed by a methodological whiteness that strictly separates it from materiality, politics, and knowledge, then a dramaturgical or choreographic analytics of race might better address how racial materialities operate both above and below the level of individual bodies, subjects, and citizens. Synthesizing practical insights from artistic research and performing arts with critical theories of race and identity, this essay refers to some of the author’s recent personal experiences at academic events in order to describe and analyze whiteness as a form of social choreography.
Original languageEnglish
Article number24
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024

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