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Whiteness and Control

While racial difference can be studied in various sociological ways—access to healthcare, health outcomes, economic disparities, prison populations, and more—whiteness has come to influence individuals in less concrete, more pernicious ways. Though overt discrimination no longer has the legal backing it once did, whiteness remains a powerful form of social dominance and control. This control is further compounded by the contemporary moment, in which whiteness has reemerged as an identity that some wish to take up as a mantle.

The objects below call to mind the uneasiness, discomfort, and isolation that whiteness can create in the modern world. Present in these images are a number of paired themes: inclusion and exclusion, reality and dissociation, boundaries and “the inside,” aesthetic and ownership. How does whiteness affect the world in less than obvious ways? What sort of futures does whiteness preclude, and how can these futures be ensured? 

Max Pechstein
Heidenstamm, from "Marsyas"
drypoint and etching on paper
14 11/16 in x 10 11/16 in (37.31 cm x 27.15 cm);19 ⅜ in x 14 3/10 in (49.21 cm x 36.35 cm)
Museum Purchase made possible by the Friends of the Museum of Art
Josef Albers
Umgeben
woodcut on paper
22 1/16 in x 18 1/16 in (56.04 cm x 45.88 cm);7 ½ in x 9 4/5 in (19.05 cm x 24.92 cm);13 15/16 in x 19 4/5 in (35.4 cm x 50.32 cm)
Gift of Jean Paul Slusser
Basil Hawkins
Card Game
lithograph on paper
12 3/10 in x 17 7/16 in (31.27 cm x 44.29 cm)
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration Commissioned through the New Deal art projects;Courtesy of the Fine Arts Collection, U.S. General Services Administration, New Deal art project
A blurry girl in a dress standing in front of a white Cadillac. She is smiling.
Steve Williams
Hannah, Boalsburg, PA 6/20/99
toned gelatin silver print on paper
8 x 10 in. ( 20.32 x 25.4 cm )
Gift from the Collection of David S. Rosen MD, MPH

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Last Updated

February 5, 2019 3:25 p.m.

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