Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Clevis R. Headley
Whiteness is a social and historical construction that functions both as a basis of identity and as a criterion for the distribution of various forms of social, cultural, political, human, and financial capital. It does not refer to a biological essence or natural kind and thus is not dependent on biology to establish its semantic legitimacy. Rather, it is best understood as a theoretical/metaphorical construction amenable to multiple strategies of utilization. This entry examines the nature of whiteness as a construct, through an analysis of its metaphorical use as a normative category in social, civic, and legal contests, as an economic metaphor, and as a psychological metaphor. Adopting this constructivist/historicist approach in which whiteness is a sociocultural concept does not entail construing it as unreal or as a fiction, and downplaying the biological approach to whiteness is not to deny the significance of color or other phenotypical features in whiteness ...