White: Essays on Race and Culture / Edition 1

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Overview

White people are not literally or symbolically white; nor are they uniquely virtuous and pure. Racial imagery and racial representation are central to the organisation of the contemporary world but, while there are many studies of images of black and Asian people, whiteness is an invisible racial position. At the level of racial representation, whites are not of a certain race. They are just the human race, a 'colour' against which other ethnicities are always examined.
In White, Richard Dyer looks beyond the apparent unremarkability of whiteness and argues for the importance of analysing images of white people. Dyer traces the representation of whiteness by whites in Western visual culture, focusing on the mass media of photography, advertising, fine art, cinema and television.
Dyer examines the representation of whiteness and the white body in the contexts of Christianity, 'race' and colonialism. In a series of absorbing case studies, he discusses the representations of whiteness in muscle-man action cinema, from Italian 'peplum' movies to the Tarzan and Rambo series; shows the construction of whiteness in photography and cinema in the lighting of white and black faces, and analyses the representation of white women in end-of-empire fictions such as The Jewel in the Crown, and traces the disturbing association of whiteness with death, in vampire narratives and dystopian films such as Blade Runner and the Aliens trilogy.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this inevitable study of whiteness as metaphor, University of Warwick film professor Dyer (Now You See It) takes an idea from Moby Dick, applies it to visual media (photography, film, television, advertising) and expands it into six essays. Proceeding from the view that white people "remain a large unexamined category in sharp contrast to the many studies of images of black and Asian peoples," Dyer looks at how Westernprimarily Americanculture grants privilege to whites through positive associations, such as blessedness, purity and heroism. After a tedious confessional in which the author identifies himself as a privileged, white, British "queer" with a sensitivity to other oppressed people, Dyer uses case studies from Tarzan to The Jewel in the Crown to bleached-out depictions of Christ in order to reach many predictable conclusions: "being visible as white is a passport to privilege" or "white is no colour because it is all colours." A chapter on the development of "photography and film [as] media of light" around the white face as subject, however, is both original and compelling. This study of "whiteness qua whiteness" may be the first of its kind at book length, but there are too many theoretical variables operating at once (historical, Christian, "queer," post-colonialist, pop cultural) for whiteness to mean anything but whatever you want it to. This may be the pointthat whiteness is powerful because it can mean so many different thingsbut that still makes for difficult subject matter, which here is handled with only partial success. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415095372
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 8/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 284
  • Sales rank: 1,424,160
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

List of plates
Acknowledgements
Introduction
1 The matter of whiteness 1
2 Coloured white, not coloured 41
3 The light of the world 82
4 The white man's muscles 145
5 'There's nothing I can do! Nothing!' 184
6 White death 207
Notes 224
Bibliographies 234
Index 251
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