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'White English Ethnicities': Racism, anti-racism and student perspectives

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Anoop Nayak


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This article investigates how young people experience white, English ethnicities in the contemporary post-imperial moment. Drawing on historically informed ethnographic data collected in the north-east of England, the work explores the contingent meaning of whiteness in the predominantly white preserves of Tyneside. It aims to comprehend how white ethnicities are experimentally 'lived out' in school settings by documenting young people's responses to anti-racist practice. The research found that while many youth agreed with the egalitarian principles of anti-racism, a majority maintained a number of white grievances which they felt could be rarely articulated. This dissatisfaction was exemplified in forms of racist name-calling, where it was perceived that the existing legislation was unfair to the needs of the ethnic majority. Indeed, evidence of a 'white backlash' could be traced in the emotional responses of young people who believed that anti-racism and multiculturalism were effectively techniques for the surveillance of white racial identity. The study also points towards ways in which white, English ethnicities can be positively deconstructed by students and teachers through forms of storytelling, auto/biography and local historical research. This marks an attempt to involve, rather than alienate, white youth in policies of social equity.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nayak A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Race, Ethnicity and Education

Year: 1999

Volume: 2

Issue: 2

Pages: 177-202

Print publication date: 01/01/1999

ISSN (print): 1361-3324

ISSN (electronic): 1470-109X


DOI: 10.1080/1361332990020202


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