Recapitulating the historiographical contributions of Matthew Frye Jacobson's 'Whiteness of a Different Color' and Gail Bederman's 'Manliness and Civilization'

Tunc T. E.

RETHINKING HISTORY, vol.12, no.2, pp.281-288, 2008 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 12 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/13642520802002372
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.281-288
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Prior to the mid-1990s, most of the literature on American whiteness and its relationship to masculinity emerged from the historiography of labor and the working class, and focused on race as an instrument of social control or class discipline. About ten years ago, Mathew Frye Jacobson and Gail Bederman pioneered the current shift away from this previous emphasis on labor movements and class relations, to explore the political and cultural implications of whiteness, manliness, and civilization. In their seminal works Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race and Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880 - 1917, these authors identify various sites that produced discourses on whiteness, manliness, and civilization, and elucidate where and how these discourses were contested. Balancing archival sources with a wide range of epistemological approaches (e.g. literary criticism, material culture, and gender theory), Jacobson and Bederman present a sophisticated approach to the history of American race relations which complicates our understanding of racial representation, social hierarchies, and power.