chapter  2
14 Pages

Whiteness as a kind of absence

I have framed this chapter to incorporate two paradoxical but not mutually exclusive ways of conceptualising whiteness. There is a set of arguments that suggest that whiteness is invisible because its normalisation guides scrutiny away from it, and another set arguing that the exercise of power makes it, on the contrary, extremely visible. The latter have been introduced in the previous chapter. Here, I am going to offer a reading in which both are true, at the same time, but the visibility or invisibility of the white subject is contingent: hence whiteness as a kind of absence that is produced by social relationships. We shall first look at how whiteness can be invisible and unmarked, before taking the alternative view, in which whiteness is heavily marked, to the point where it saturates the field. The last section will develop these ideas, showing how one person’s invisibility is another’s visibility.