Anomic and Alienated Fragility: The Generic Processes of White Racial Identity Formation

Monday, 11 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Seminar 34 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Matthew HUGHEY, Sociology, University of Connecticut, Storrs,, CT, USA
The bulk of research on “alienation” remains couched in Marxist and neo-Frankfurt paradigms, while a divergent yet commensurate approach to the subject’s disconnect from others and one’s sense of self is found in Durkheiminan and neo-functionalist notions of “anomie.”   Both these concepts have found considerable purchase in the study of dominant racial formations—particularly in the study of white racial identity.  Yet, the quantitative examinations of the correlation of whiteness with socioeconomic status, access to resources, and the paradoxical sense of alienation or anomie in the face of social privileges, has not illumined how or why whiteness functions to produce both a sense of alienation and anomie qua victimization or meaninglessness amidst a retention of social power in late capitalism.  Accordingly, I plumb the extant sociological literature to develop a sensitizing and generic theory of the processes by which whiteness is formed and reproduced—drawing explicitly from the insights of Marx and Durkheim.  I conducted a meta-analysis of mainstream American sociology journals and influential scholarly journals focused on the sociological analyses of race and ethnicity over the past century.  I show how a century of sociological insights have uncovered robust patterns that white racial identity is continually reconstructed as a site of ontological alienation and anomie that facilitates simultaneous claims of (a) superiority, (b) victimhood, and (c) rationalizations for discrimination against others.