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White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race
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White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  580 ratings  ·  76 reviews
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 o ...more
Paperback, 226 pages
Published April 29th 2016 by Duke University Press Books
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Aug 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every dutch person, provided they can stay critical of its text
Recommended to jade by: picked it up in the search for books with a focus on dutch racism
white innocence: paradoxes of colonialism and race is an incredibly important work.

it centers and showcases the netherlands’ imperialist past, and mostly how the legacy of that past still influences and stimulates dutch politics, behavior, and thought. it’s a unique thesis in how it analyzes racist comments in media, personal stories of how racist minorities are treated this day, and the cultural phenomenon of the figure of black pete through a post-colonialist framework.

wekker is not afraid to
Sander Philipse
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Gloria Wekker gives an outstanding jumping-off point to understand the Dutch reaction toward 'accusations' of racism, the 'cultural archive' from which we draw, and the fragility, defensiveness and hostility inherent in Dutch Whiteness. As a queer theorist she focuses heavily on the sexual undertones and gendered nature of many of the problems of White Dutch Innocence. Given the reactions this book and her performances have engendered, this book may prompt some re-examination and public discussi ...more
Jeroen Kraan
Interesting and insightful. Wekker makes many important observations about Dutch society. She is absolutely right that there is still plenty of racism left in The Netherlands, and provides convincing examples of it. The final chapter, on Black Pete, is the strongest of the book and makes this point very well. I find White Innocence problematic in other parts.

To get this out of the way: I'm a white dude criticising a book on white privilege and racism. You may stop reading here if you feel so inc
Mandatory for every Dutch citizen.
Whitlaw Tanyanyiwa Mugwiji
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An insightful read on racism in the Netherlands. The book confirms my own personal experiences with racism in the Netherlands. And looking at their cultural archive, the book explains where the Dutch attitude of "white innocence" comes from. Whiteness is not acknowledged as a race but taken as the norm, lacking in characteristics and devoid of meaning. ...more
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
sometimes I wished Wekker had used a little less space to outline her plans for each chapter and a little more to push her arguments a bit further, but otherwise, essential reading.
Leni Huyghe
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I consider this book by Gloria Wekker to be a central guideline to understand and deal with structural racism in European societies, not only the Netherlands but any country with a colonial past, like my own country Belgium. It deepens the thought process and teaches generously about the way white innocence and white privilege works from an intersectional point of view where gender, race and sexuality interconnect. The book gives many in depth case studies: the binary thinking of government admi ...more
Read June 2020
An interesting read about an important subject. I loved that it specifically spoke about the Netherlands.

I did have a really hard time with the academic writing though. Especially the first half (chapters 1, 2 & 3.) Not sure why that changed in the second half (chapters 4, 5 & 6.) They felt easier to read, but I don’t know if that’s because something changed in the writing or if I just got more used to the academic style.
Frank Van De Pieterman
One sided and often just not true. Some interesting lines of thought but in general a divisive book that will not help any issues solve at all.
Esmé Boom
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gloria Wekker has written an astonishing collection of interlinked essays in which she analyzes the Dutch variety of white fragility and institutional racism. I've learned so much about recent Dutch political history, as well as about women's rights and lgbt+ rights (and honestly I'm ashamed I didn't know or remembered these things). ...more
Alexander Verbist
Great – although not always the most accessible – read on the phenomenon of a country like the Netherlands, which prides itself on being 'colour blind' and antiracist, even though it has never really deconstructed the deeply embedded attitudes and emotions that maintain racism and that are rooted in its colonial past. I found the book especially interesting because my home country Belgium has a similar context and past. Hence, many of the findings in the book (probably) apply to it too. ...more
Jun 07, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found that the arguments of the book got lost in abstract and dense writing. For example, complicated quotes without sufficient context served as a substitute for rather than supportive of an argument. While I'm very interested in the content, I gave up on the book as the writing style was too demanding.  ...more
Renée Hunter
Truly valuable and insightful read, and I enjoyed her sarcastic frustration at points. However, it sometimes felt like the case studies or 'vignettes' were a little haphazard. Also, this book will speak very well to people that already agree with Gloria (as I did), but will not expose Dutch culture and identity in a way that will convince *others* of the hypocrisy and paradoxes that she discusses. It would have been a lot more valuable if it would actually be able to convince others as well. ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A briliant book on racism in the Netherlands. Through different perspectives and cases, Wekker manages to shed light on the so-called tolerance in the Netherlands, which (spoiler alert) does not exist.

The only remark I have, is that the book is academically written. Wekker stated that this was her goal, but it makes it difficult for people who do not have had access to academic or higher education to read this book easily.

Nonetheless this book is a must read!
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Very good overview of the Dutch cultural archive. I recommend it to anyone interested in Dutch culture and who is searching for a critical review of racism, misogyny, and other kinds of discrimination in the Netherlands. Whereas the Dutch call themselves tolerant and state to have freedom of speech, this book shows the necessary changes that still very much need to be made.
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Mandatory reading to anyone living in the Netherlands, and to anyone interested in how colonialism is present today in Europe.
Christopher Sutch
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the kind of scholarly work that the academy needs more of: a very contextualized, intersectional examination of how the Dutch experience with imperialism still affects racial, gender, and sexual viewpoints in contemporary Dutch society. Of course, this means much more to people living in the Netherlands than to a reader in the US...but there are many parallels in history and scholarship that cast highlights onto the current American context as well as the Dutch. As the most obvious examp ...more
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Super interesting and cool, but I kept hoping that Wekker would dig deeper, really deconstruct what she was analysing, but as is often the case with case studies, it remained incidental. Which of course doesn't do away with the fact that this book is badass, spot-on and extremely necessary. I guess the purpose of this book was to bring the topic to the surface, for it is very new for a lot of people, but I was left wanting at times. Which is okay, what I am probably looking for is way to much fo ...more
Francine Maessen
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting, but also a bit disturbing book. Wekker gives a good analysis of the Dutch ideas about racism, but the pessimistic thing is that I didn't read about a solution. Maybe that's not her job as an anthropologist, on the other hand I would be very curious about her ideas on how to solve this. Of course she shows how the solution to racism lies in intersectional policies, but the solution to white innocence is hard to find. How do you change such a rigid structure? ...more
Hans Morsink
Oct 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
A load of incoherent drivel supported by anecdotal evidence.
I am sure there is some racism, but if you would swap black and white in this book I am pretty sure we would all call this book blatant racism.
Also, it won’t convince anyone not agreeing with Wekker; she truly is preaching to the choir and being divisive while doing that

As someone once said, you first need races before you get racism. And Wekker is a racist.
Daan Besamusca
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Spot on in many ways. Must-read book for Dutch people sufficiently open-minded to learn about the particularities of racism in the Netherlands, including people’s resistance and attitude to talk about race in general. Many observations are very recognisable from a UK/US perspective as well, making it an interesting read on post colonial race relations for non-Dutch natives as well.
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll write the review in English since it's also available in English, but I read this one, the Dutch version.

First of all, it feels good to learn more about the ways in which racism - and particularly anti-Blackness - manifests itself in the Netherlands, and I found myself nodding along a lot. As Wekker explains, the Netherlands are a country of white innocence (witte onschuld) - we like to pretend that we don't have racism here, we're all colourblind and the real racists live in the United Sta
Nena Veenstra
Oct 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: black-author
I feel like most of the reviews of this book start with 'this is an important book' and I agree. Or, to put it more nuanced, I agree that it's important that there are books written about the Netherlands' colonial past and the way it is ignored by its population. The paradox that Gloria Wekker speaks of is very real and ought to be highlighted.

I feel, however, that this book doesn't do a great job at it. This is because of multiple reasons. First of all, Wekker takes way too much time to introd
Edwin Pietersma
Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
As a Dutch person and trained historian and anthropologist, I felt the urge to read this book, which has been praised and criticized extensively in The Netherlands. It is always rather odd to see yourself as an anthropological study, but sometimes a necessary process. After reading this, I can understand both sides of the coin: her research is fascinating, pressing upon the issue that can only be described as the naturalization of postcolonial melancholia and the assumed neutrality of being whit ...more
Jun 23, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately I didn’t end up finishing this book. It was a disappointing read. Let me start by saying that as a white woman I have been on a quest to learn more about our colonial past and understand people of color better. I would also like to better be able to recognize institutionalized racism and combat it where possible.

This book was so hard to get through that I never really reached that goal. The writing style fluttered between incoherent and scientific language, making it incredibly di
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was different than I expected; I guess I kind of expected a history lesson (sorry prof. Wekker!) but instead this book is very focused on the now, and takes a deeper look at how our colonial past still works through into the current (denial of) racism in Dutch society, even though this past is generally ignored by us (the Dutch).
I was worried I’d find this book difficult to read or understand because of its scientific nature, but exactly the opposite; I shot through it and didn’t want
Jan 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If you want to understand why Dutch people are so racist and dive deeper in the current and past social dynamic in Holland I'd recommend this book.
I started reading it to understand why a classmate of mine was so proud to dress up black- faced every year as Zwart Piet and through the book grasped the history of this offensive tradition as well as vocabulary which will allow me to address this issue next time it comes up.
(Which is probably will in Belgian context)

Its also interesting to read abo
Lisa Nussy
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wekker is bold and bright to describe what many don't dare, or that has been controversial for the most time and still is: racism in the Netherlands. This is an amazing book to understand the relation between the colonial past and the present society in the Netherlands. It is an eye opener and even though it is based on ethnographic research and autobiography, it is easily understandable. Very welcome and very necessary in everyone's bookshelf, also to understand current racism in Europe. Perfec ...more
Feb 01, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful read on Dutch society and racism. Lots of topics are touched upon but they all come together into a coherent book. Only three stars because of the way it was written. For me, it was too academic. After years of university I had quite enough of this writing style, and this book felt like a very long scientific article. If you don't mind this, then I would recommend this book to you. If you do, I'd advise you to try a different book on this topic. ...more
Jul 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, academic
A must-read for Dutch people and people who are interested in Dutch history and society. The book sets out very clearly, with several examples, the ambivalent and awkward relation white Dutch people have with race and racism, and how this relationship is shaped by Dutch imperial history on the one hand and a self-understanding of an innocent nation on the other hand.

I was not a big fan of the Dutch translation however, would recommend to read it in its original language: English.
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Gloria Daisy Wekker is an Afro-Surinamese Dutch emeritus professor (Utrecht University) and writer who has focused on gender studies and sexuality in the Afro-Caribbean region and diaspora. She was the winner of the Ruth Benedict Prize from the American Anthropological Association in 2007.

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43 likes · 16 comments
“Decolonial feminism arrives at a similar conclusion that gender is not an innocent concept. This school of thought points to gender as a colonial introduction. As a concept gender did not exist among indigenous and black people; more fluid categorisations prevailed” 3 likes
“Questioning this most dearly held core of the Dutch sense of self not only is felt as a direct attack, it also means that the nonbeliever, the antiracist killjoy, is putting himself or herself above “us,” which in itself again runs deeply counter to another strand in the Dutch sense of self: “gelijke monnikken, gelijke kappen” (literally, equal monks, equal cowls), which invokes the deep egalitarian strand in Dutch self-representation. Critical self-reflection, moreover and ironically, is a scarce commodity in a culture that delights in imagining itself as “nothing,” “just normal” (Ramdas 1998), without specific characteristics, much less infused with deep racializations. The point of not knowing, racial ignorance, and innocence has long passed.” 1 likes
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