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White: Essays on Race and Culture
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White: Essays on Race and Culture

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  329 ratings  ·  32 reviews
White people are not literally or symbolically white; nor are they uniquely virtuous and pure. Racial imagery and racial representation are central to the organisation of the contemporary world but, while there are many studies of images of black and Asian people, whiteness is an invisible racial position. At the level of racial representation, whites are not of a certain ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 5th 1997 by Routledge (first published 1997)
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May 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing

This book is a game changer. It's so amazing. The scope and breadth of his argument is staggering. If you aren't familiar with the book he breaks it down like this in the introduction:

"But this then is why it is important to come to see whiteness. For those in power in the West, as long as whiteness is felt to be the human condition, then it alone both defines normality and fully inhabits it. As I suggested in my opening paragraphs, the equation of being white with being human secures a positio
Eliane Mitchell
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really fascinating book that I (admittedly) read for class. As James Baldwin said “there is now white community” — this book, by contrast, develops a theory to explain what whiteness is and how it has managed to disguise itself as “ordinary.” Watching the several movies that the author discusses in depth would probably be helpful (however I did not do this, simply skimming these parts).
Hannah Treasure
Dyer attempts to separate race from class, gender, and sexuality in a way that just isn't possible. Even in his own experiences, Dyer seems to identify with racial minorities as a sort of outsider perspective parallel to his own sexuality; yet with his personal struggles it seems like throughout the essay he still yearns to be something other than white as almost an interesting addition to himself--presenting a clearly problematic view that disregards cultural narratives and history. His miscons ...more
Nov 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Hey everybody who was in Engl 662 or 666 or whatever it was? Remember when the bookstore turned these books upside down? Yeah. That was funny. We all felt really odd buying them.

That aside, this is a pretty good outline of "color" (in terms of gender/race issues) in text and film, although it misses a lot of important points and seems to focus more on photographs and lighting analysis than the theoretical implications. However, I think it's good as an overview text.
Christian Holub
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
The definite highlight from the "Unsettling Whiteness" class I took this past spring. One of the keys to white supremacy is pretending that while categories like "black" and "Asian" have specific biological/psychological characteristics, whiteness is normalcy devoid of any intrinsic markers. This book will blow your mind with its analysis of the attributes of whiteness. ...more
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, non-fiction
Dyer examines the concept of "whiteness" through photography (and cameras essentially constructed to deal with lighter colored skin), film and TV (by concentrating on white hero/muscle/masculinity and white/feminine/purity/damsel or troublemaker, and the association with death). ...more
Oct 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and very visual look at the way white people have created images of whiteness across the ages. Should be required reading for all, I think.
Feb 23, 2014 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Rowena by: Prof. Black
Shelves: race, grad-school
Prof for my next course sent us the pdf of this book. Looks interesting.
Megan L
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
In all honesty I thought that a book that was going to address "Whiteness" in the same way that academics address "non-White" cultures. To a certain extent the book did do that, but something about Dyer's introduction really prevented me from fully engaging with his text. In the preface he talks about how he feels 'allyship' with non-White people because of his queerness, then discusses how his eroticisation of the non-White bodies through his romantic relationships with non-White partners made ...more
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dyer manages to talk about hugely serious issues in his collection of essays in a conversational style which makes me wonder why these aren't conversations had more readily. "White" is a series of essays dealing with whiteness and the unawareness that white people have around issues of race. I should point out at this point that I am a white female. "White" made me realise how everything is designed for the white race, from plasters to film lighting. I can't do the book justice, but I hope more ...more
Aug 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
A critique of Dyer in the style of Dyer:
The author's pretentious use of inaccessible vocabulary and refusal to pragmatically recognize the heteronormative local and global perception of race and race issues causes concomitant feelings of aesthetic displeasure and philosophical confusion on the part of the reader.
Now in plain language: Barely readable. Even less understandable.
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-reread
Dyer's thought process is clear and charming. He provides very analytical pondering on defining whiteness. I especially liked his close-reading of the films Simba, Jezebel and Night of the Living Dead. Definitely read-again! ...more
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read this book years ago, but it has been on my mind a lot lately. Dyer unpacks the way white people center whiteness, normalizing and celebrating it, while pushing non-white identities to the margins. His reading of the construction of "white woman" as paragon is particularly enlightening. ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must read - especially now in this unfortunate political climate.
Brilliant and important analysis of the deeply embedded centrality of 'whiteness' as a concept in Western culture. Essential reading for race scholars. ...more
Travis Wagner
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Necessary reading for white folks, particularly in terms of better understanding how truly white-centric culture, history and the arts are and remain.
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
"How anything is represented is the means by which we think and feel about that thing, by which we apprehend it." ...more
Izetta Autumn
If you are a student of cultural studies, visual culture or race in America, you MUST read this book. There are a few books that change your life, that you remember reading and everything clicks. This was it for me. The book is wonderful. Not only does Dyer write clearly and with ease about such a complicated topic, but he provides nearly indisputable examples of the ways Western culture privileges whiteness - not only the hue but also the skin color.

Dyer deals with art, art history, and photogr
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: filmmakers / film theorists / grips and gaffers
Shelves: film-theory
more than any other, this book inspired my Div III (aka senior thesis) at Hampshire, which was titled "The Rise of the White Heroine: Feminism and Racism at the Movies."

"White" looks critically at the representation of whiteness in popular culture, historically and presently. Specifically it goes into representations in the moving image, particularly Hollywood movies, and spends a great deal of time on the development of Hollywood lighting. Dyer explains how film lights and film stock have been
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: oppression
This isn't a book about racism, and it isn't a book about race, really. It truly is a book about "white," what white means, and what things in our culture create, maintain and privilege the things, symbols and people that count as white.

REALLY interesting perspective. My favorite part was reading about the photography/film industry and how that history has affected the way we see light, brightness, and whiteness. Sometimes the book is painfully abstract but other times it's completely relatable
Mari Säisä
Feb 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Ooh I want to feel ashamed that I am white and privileged. Still new approaches to spot these falsities in the world. Swartzenegger is so wrong being superior as Conan the Barbarian. I wonder is this 13 years ago published book out dated or what additions could make. For example why in many cultures paler the better, expect in Western where tanned body means leisure.

This is just like when reading feminist books. Time to start spotting injustice!
Jul 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is media studies done right. Not only does Dyer consider race representations in film and media, but he also goes so far as to interrogate the racist aspects at work in the mechanics of film and photographic technology in capturing light and filming subjects -- he also even goes so far as to consider positive examples and solutions. One of my all-time faves.
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
I started to read this book while I was in England. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish the book because I had to come back from my study abroad too quickly and I was having too much fun! In the first couple of chapters I was totally taken. This book does an amazing job at deconstructing the construction of whiteness.
Reginald Simms
The author writes on ways whiteness is imbued in film and television as an expression of cultural norms. Those expressions being racialized, religious, heteronormative, homophobic, and patriarchal but always centered around whiteness. Whiteness as superior, whiteness as universal, whiteness as invisible, whiteness as charitable, whiteness as godly,even whiteness as death etc.
May 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
I really liked the first two chapters that theorised whiteness and put it in a broader contextual analysis. The third chapter was interesting, but oh sooooo long. And he lost me with the last three chapters that were too narrow in their focus for me, limited to a specific case study that didn't particularly interest me and could have been more refined/in depth ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I love Dyer's style, and I love how he incorporates so many different sources into his books - films, photographs, visual art, pop culture, literature, history, and more. This is another book that really earns the descriptions "challenging" and "thought-provoking." ...more
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-mostly
The first few chapters were excellent because it spoke about "whiteness" broadly, then it became very specific to film and art, which is fine for a particular audience. I knew that prior to getting the book so I'm not rating it based upon the narrow topic. ...more
Aug 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
I luv this dude! <3 <3
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
A great combination of media theory and Whiteness studies. Especially hones in on the aesthetics of Whiteness as an ideal idea.
Chuck Williamson
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I just want to give Richard Dyer a big, sloppy kiss.
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