Session 11

Ulrika Kjellman / Uppsala University
Jeff Werner / Stockholm University

A Whiter Shade of Pale — Whiteness Perspective on Nordic Visual Culture

Critical whiteness perspectives have been a productive take on visual culture during the last decades. Films, photographs, TV, commercials and fine arts have been successfully analysed and put in a new light by scholars such as Richard Dyer, Martin A Berger and WJT Mitchell. In recent years’ scholars in the Nordic countries have tried to identify how whiteness has been constructed in Nordic visual culture. This work has been done on visual objects from a wide range of spheres: art, architecture, design, film, TV, and scientific illustrations.


The Nordic countries have a special place in Western racial thinking, as the supposed home of the Nordic race — “the whitest whites in the white racial category”, as Dyers puts it. But white as a racial category is not only a question about skin-colour. In the hegemonic white culture in the Nordic countries white has often been unspoken norm, connected with ideas about progress and high culture. Nordic people have been seen as superior to all other people. Critical whiteness studies see race/whiteness as socially and historically constructed and not a result of biological circumstances. One of the main goals of the field has therefore been to deconstruct whiteness and its claimed neutral non-racial position. Thus, whiteness studies focus on the unmarked, the normative, the things that just go unnoticed in a hegemonic white culture. Therefore, the Northern countries offer a vast visual material that could be interesting to scrutinize from this perspective. And Art history ought to have many of the methodological and theoretical tools necessary to carry out these kinds of studies. This session aims at mapping contemporary whiteness studies in work dealing with Nordic visual culture.

We welcome papers from all sections of Art History, Museum Studies and Visual Culture Studies etc., with a critical whiteness perspective on a Nordic material.