Whiteness Limited: Racialization and the Social Construction of "Peripheral Europeans"


  • Vic Satzewich


In a brief critical analysis of recent problematizations of whiteness, I suggest that feminist theory and anti-racism often revert to essentialist understandings of "race", whereas the new social history is more consistent with a constructionist approach. Considerable literature on the racialization of Irish immigrants in the United States and the analysis of how the Irish "became white" should not necessarily form the template by which other peripheral Europeans responded to their "racial" assignment. Racial assignments do not automatically produce racial identities, and in some cases they lead to the creation of national identities. The Ukrainian diaspora in North America serves as an illustrative example. Even though they were constructed as racial others by dominant elites in North America during the early years of the twentieth century, Ukrainians responded to their racialized status by asserting claims to a national identity. This argument raises large issues regarding the articulation of racism and nationalism.