Various ethnic/racial groups have suffered political and economic disenfranchisement as a result of being non-white. In response, minority communities have sought the privileges conferred upon whiteness and simultaneously denied to them—whether by passing as white, fighting a racial designation in the courtrooms, or mobilizing against systemic inequality. When and Where I Enter, organized by Associate Professor of American Studies Beck Krefting and students from her spring 2018 “Critical Whiteness” course, examines ideas around whiteness.
Critical whiteness studies is an anti-racist, self-reflexive, and interdisciplinary field that seeks to recognize racial identities as social constructs. Students examine primary sources, legal cases, historical accounts, literature, and cultural criticism to understand the social constructions of whiteness at various points in US history, including the colonial and antebellum periods, the Industrial Age, and the modern-day United States. They study groups occupying the borders and fringes of whiteness—from “white trash” to people who can’t quite “pass”—how people negotiate these designations, and the institutional investment in maintaining the category of whiteness in the United States.
Students applied course concepts to art from the Tang Teaching Museum collection, researching nearly fifty works of art before selecting for display a dozen photographs, prints, painting, and sculpture that examine ideas of critical whiteness in provocative and diverse ways. When and Where I Enter encourages visitors to engage with history as a series of racial projects that bestow or divest privileges and race as a construct with material and lived consequences. In a society that casts white as the invisible norm, as the default, as the unspoken, this exhibition attempts to make whiteness visible. Moreover, it attempts to make whiteness strange.
Students co-curating this exhibit include Nora Carden, Eve Gertzman, Magden Gipe, Maria-Lian Glander, Max Grossman, Reshma Harripersad, Dana Keyes-Gibbons, Devon Kilburn, Grant Landau-Williams, Ali Milazzo, Devika Nambiar, Zoe Resnick, Allison Trunkey, Isaac Weiss-Meyer, and Rose White.