Deconstructing & Reconstructing Whiteness: A study of the perceptions of young, white, middle-class women in regard to their participation in processes of segregation and structural racism in Gothenburg

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för globala studier

Abstract: In Gothenburg, between 1990 and 2006, the average disposable income in East Bergsjön (a so-called immigrant-dense suburb) increased by 3 percent, while in Hovås (an affluent, white suburb) it increased by 176 percent. The aim of this thesis is to analyse the perceptions of young, white, middle-class Swedish women on their participation in structural racism and processes of segregation. In this thesis, segregation is understood as parallel processes of geographical and social difference-making that adhere to a racialized hierarchy in society, in which whiteness is the unmarked norm. The theoretical framework for the thesis is based on the work of Sara Ahmed on the phenomenology of whiteness. The data in this study is collected from in-depth interviews with five white, middle-class women between the ages of 20-30, studying the first semester of the Bachelor of Social Work at Gothenburg University. The conclusions drawn in this thesis relate to the invisibility of whiteness and how it affects the complicity of these women in processes of segregation. The thesis also provides examples of strategies used by these white women - knowingly or unknowingly - to relate to issues of structural racism. The thesis is structured according to four themes from the interviews; the Us-Them phenomenon, the invisible white self, white politically correct paranoia and perceived white powerlessness. The fifth section in the analysis is a theoretical discussion on what can be accomplished within the logic of whiteness, whether whiteness can be deconstructed/reconstructed and the possibilities for further research.

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