Nostalgic Pasts, Ironic Futures: On the Temporal Modalities of Whiteness


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation analyzes the phenomena of nostalgia and irony as temporal structures as well as modes of white racial identity formation. Its central claim is that white racial identity is constituted by a nostalgic temporal structure; that is, whiteness is foundationally nostalgic. This relationship is established through a philosophical reading of the history of nostalgia as a medical disorder between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as the emergence of white identity formations primarily in the antebellum North. Through a critical reading of Richard Rorty and Søren Kierkegaard, the project then argues that irony—understood in its most radical sense as a temporal mode of existence oriented towards the future—can serve as an alternative mechanism of racial identity formation which would not succumb to the nostalgia and violence that has characterized the history of whiteness and white supremacy.