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The Making of White American Identity

Ron Eyerman

Publication Date - 06 September 2022

ISBN: 9780197658949

304 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


An account of the emergence and development of white consciousness throughout American history.

In The Making of White American Identity, Ron Eyerman provides an explanation for how whiteness has become a basis for collective identification and collective action in the United States. Drawing upon his previous work on the formation of African American identity, as well as cultural trauma theory, collective memory, and social movements, he reveals how and under what conditions such a collective identification emerges, as well as how the mobilization of collective action around an ideology of whiteness and white superiority. Eyerman explores how the American identity was, and is still being established, through both historical and more recent events, including the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, the election of a Black president, the Charlottesville confrontation, and the violent conflict at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. He further shows how each event revitalized the trauma narratives stemming from the nation's founding tensions, mobilizing social forces around the idea of white superiority and white consciousness. Tracing the historical contexts and social conditions under which individuals and groups move through this process, the author also looks forward at the prospects of the ideology of white supremacy as a political force in the United States.


  • Gives a new understanding of white identity politics through the application of cultural trauma theory
  • Brings popular culture into the analysis of identity formation
  • Provides a framework for interpreting current political events in the United States

About the Author(s)

Ron Eyerman is Professor of Sociology at Yale University.


"Ron Eyerman's account of whiteness is inevitably personal and necessarily informed by theory and history. His focus is not on the whiteness always already present since Europeans arrived, but on whiteness made and remade, especially in relation to cultural traumas like the Civil War. From the colonies through the KKK, race in the media, response to the Obama presidency, confrontation over Confederate statues in Charlottesville and the storming of the Capitol, Eyerman insightfully shows the centrality of whiteness to both meaning making and political mobilization. He concludes where we must begin, with the dangers posed by threatened, injured whiteness today." -- Craig Calhoun, Arizona State University and LSE

"Ron Eyerman gives us a new and vitally significant understanding of 'whiteness'—that it is not born but made. Always a latent identity, whiteness becomes a manifest one in response to the traumatic fear—baseless in objective terms—that people who share nothing but light skin tone are somehow being threatened with extinction. Eyerman is a brilliant intellectual and this book is a tour de force." -- Jeffrey Alexander, Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology, Yale University

Table of Contents

    Chapter One: On Trauma and Trauma Narratives
    Chapter Two: White Consciousness from Colonization to the Civil War
    Chapter Three: Representing and Organizing Whiteness
    Chapter Four: Racializing the Nation: Popular Culture and Whiteness
    Chapter Five: Voicing and Visualizing Whiteness
    Chapter Six: Whiteness in the Digital Age
    Chapter Seven: The Future of Whiteness in the United States

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