Pioneer on ‘whiteness’ joins USC History Center
By Peggy Binette, email@example.com, 803-777-5400
A scholar and pioneer in the study of whiteness has joined the University of South Carolina History Center as its first distinguished visiting professor.
David Roediger, a historian from the University of Illinois, is spending the semester teaching, conducting research and exploring how notions about race are created. Roediger argues that racial categories don’t simply include non-white peoples and that whiteness itself is a racial category.
“The idea that white people have a racial identity that is not simply the norm helps us to understand why political alliances and social structures form as they do, often uniting the rich and poor within races,” Roediger said.
Roediger said his interest in whiteness emerged from his training in African American history.
“I was trained in African-American history and have always regarded the critical studies of whiteness as part of ethnic studies, beginning with slave folktales about whites and with Indian stories making sense of settlers,” Roediger said. “Today, as well, the leading studies of whiteness are again done in ethnic studies and with great attention to the fact that nobody is only one thing – that whites are also divided by class, gender, sexuality, religion and more.”
Larry Glickman, chairman of USC’s history department, said Roediger’s research has spurred debate.
"His research has produced useful debate about how to historicize concepts that we think of as natural,” said Glickman. “Categories of race aren’t clear, and they change over time. Take the Irish, who were not considered white until after the Civil War. David Roediger’s research and teaching open up a whole new world that is particularly exciting for how broad categories of race develop over time. It is a provocative and important dialogue.”