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ES200 – Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack: Critical Whiteness Studies

In Block C, students in ES 200 will examine the social construction of whiteness, its interaction with gender, socioeconomic status, and other social markers, as well as the historical and contemporary social, cultural, and political resistance to white privilege.

What are the “wages of whiteness?”
What are the “wages of whiteness?”


Assistant Professor, Assoc Dir Heidi Lewis email

The premise of Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) is that historically, as well as in contemporary societies, whiteness, like gender and class, has been a fundamental source of societal stratification. It also recognizes that other forms of inequality have been or are based on age, religion, sexual orientation, and other social markers. Especially in the United States, customs and laws perpetuate discrimination and inequality based on white privilege. Hence, this course will also entail an interdisciplinary and intersectional critique and historical examination of the origins of white privilege in U.S. culture. Throughout the course, students will gauge the economic and political forces responsible for the construction and maintenance of whiteness. In addition, they will critique the multiple axes of race, gender and class in order to gain an understanding of the function of various mechanisms of privilege.

The following questions will guide the course: What is Critical Whiteness Studies? What material work is necessary in order to intervene in the assumption that “whiteness always equals terror and racism?” How is whiteness an “unmarked marker?” What historical and social conditions led European immigrants to claim a racial identity? How and why have definitions of whiteness changed over historical time? How does racism hinder class-based political movements? What is the relationship between working-class identities and epistemological solipsism and middle-class identities, neo-liberalism, and colorblind racism? How does “othering” work as a process of identity denial and formation?

No divisional credit; Diverse Cultures and Critiques pending; this course qualifies as writing intensive

Prerequisite: None. Enrollment is limited to 25 students. A non-refundable $100 deposit is required of Colorado College students to enroll in this course. Visiting students are required to pay a non-refundable $500 deposit. The deposit will be credited to your final tuition payment.