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White Spaces project | challenging systems of institutionalised whiteness

The White Spaces Research Network provides a focus for international interdisciplinary engagements between scholars, activists, students and practitioners who share an interest in issues of whiteness in the context of global racialised power dynamics.

White Spaces project | challenging systems of institutionalised whiteness

the challenge

Our society has to meet its aspiration to social equality and justice.

In the context of the increased invisibility of whiteness as relation of power and producer of social and especially racial inequality.

The challenge is to consider:

  • How whiteness works as an institutional organizing principle
  • How its workings can be challenged in the context of our current national and global decolonizing urge
  • How can we disinvest from whiteness as part of this decolonizing urge?

The White Spaces Research Network 

The Network was formally established in 2009, by Shona Hunter working in collaboration with academics, practitioner and scholar activists globally. Much of this history and its related activities and are documented the White Spaces website.

White Spaces website

The Approach

The White Spaces Research Network approach is deeply critical of systems of institutionalized whiteness.

It pushes debate on whiteness on from its well worn territory of white identities. It is interested in the relationship of whiteness to collective liberation practices against societal domination.

In order to push this debate on the network engages with ideas from postcolonial, de- and anti- colonial studies and from critical race and whiteness studies. It uses these ideas to advance multidimensional and intersectional analysis of processes of gendering and racialisation which form part of the complex and shifting social dynamics in contemporary multicultural societies.

The network takes its core challenges seriously because its research evidence base shows that whiteness operates under the institutional surface. From its hidden position whiteness impacts the life chances and mental healthiness of multicultural societies aspiring to equality and justice.

Members of the network come from the point of view that whiteness is established historically through the violent relations of intersecting global colonialities. They explore how these histories work in the reassertion of liberal narratives of tolerance and how these narratives serve to redraw the boundaries for national, institutional and organisational inclusion/exclusion in predictable, but also in new and surprising, ways.

The White Spaces Research Network is strongly collaborative in its approach to partnership. It generates and nurtures longstanding collaborative activity with individuals and organisations who are interested in generating ongoing critical collaborations in the area of challenging whiteness.



The impact

The White Spaces Research Network has over 10 years of impact. Its work has involved over 300 members over that period and its broader impact extends out from that via:

  • Links with Universities internationally and nationally in the UK. In its publications, editorial, supervision and mentoring activities it has impacted on the development of the academic field of Critical Whiteness Studies across a range disciplines including education, social policy and political science, journalism, the visual arts, management
  • It has also worked with a range of organizations across health, social care and education public sector broadcasting who are trying to understand how to address systematized institutional whiteness in their practices and processes
  • Teaching activity is also national and international. Currently at Leeds Beckett research led by Dr Hunter and other research generated by network members underpins the Critical Whiteness Studies module on the MA Race Education and Decoloniality. Dr Hunter has also disseminated empirical research from the network via her visiting positions in Australia, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa
  • The White Spaces Network has an especially strong reputation for nurturing postgraduate and early career academic work. Supporting postgraduate international mobility as well as teaching globally. Volume 9, Issue 1 of the Graduate Journal of Social Sciences on Critical Whiteness Studies Methodologies draws on the efforts of postgraduates active in the network

Information on how some of how this has been achieved through the network can be found in the Graduate Journal of Social Sciences.

Abstract image of student art work

The Routledge International Handbook for Critical Whiteness Studies.

Commissioned by Routledge Sociology, this is the first interdisciplinary handbook on the field. The handbook is lead edited by Dr Hunter with Prof Christi van der Westhuizen at CANRAD, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. It includes 36 contributions globally from Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Japan, Qatar, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, United States of America, Vienna, Zimbabwe, with the focus of contributions extending to India, Guyana, Israel.

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