White on whiteness: becoming radicalized about race by Diana L. Gustafson
I especially appreciated Gustafson’s personal approach in the essay. She takes the reader through her journey of awareness of herself as a raced person and how that has informed her nursing practice. While I am not a nurse, there is much that she discusses that I can relate to. I too am a blond, blue-eyed, Canadian.
She asks some questions related to her growing understanding of racialisation. Here I am asking the same questions borrowed from her paper (154), but changing them to reflect my practice rather than a nursing practice.
- How does being white shape my world view, my art making and my thesis writing?
- What lessons about Whiteness am I learning (or having reinforced) through the institution of the art school?
- How, if at all, do these lessons direct my theoretical and practical approach to research, art making, and writing?
Gustafson learns that “knowledge production is a political act” (155) and she writes:
My social location or, more precisely, my white identity influences what I see, the assumptions that focus my attention, the observations that I make, the problems I identify, the solutions that I generate and, more broadly, the knowledge that I produce (155).
This is very important. It is this awareness (along with all the other layers that make up my fluid identity), I believe, that is critical to art making. In my observation, and Gustafson’s (156-158), there is little self-examination by fellow artists whose lived experience is as a White person. I discussed this point in an email to my supervisor in relation to the book Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art after 1980 (2010), that in dealing with the subject of identity that the book uses examples of art and artists who do not deal with the subject of Whiteness from the point of view of a racially marked White person.
Gustafson’s approach to writing is an approach worth investigating as my writing begins to take shape. She, like Erdem Taşdelen, lets the reader know how her thinking developed and shares many of the questions that pushed her research forward. This is a strategy that I can also adopt.
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Gustafson, Diana L. “White on Whiteness: Becoming Radicalized about Race.” Nursing Inquiry 14.2 (2007): 153-61. EBSCO. Web. 14 Nov. 2011.