This article explores the nineteenth-century conceptualization of racialized whiteness that foregrounded empathy as whites’ signal evolutionary achievement and the font of their potential. Neo-Lamarckian evolutionary science in the United States articulated whiteness as an acquired disposition to care, as both noun and verb. This deep context helps us account for the rise of a statist, ameliorative new liberalism at the turn of the century and the building of a midcentury apparatus of “white care”: a surround of institutions and infrastructure dedicated to the education, health, security, mobility, and comfort of the white citizenry. The care-oriented liberalism emplaced by the New Deal was rooted in a biopolitical imperative to “make live” the valorized white portion of the population.
The Origins of White Care
Cotten Seiler is associate professor of American studies at Dickinson College. He is the author of Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America (2009) and is currently at work on a monograph exploring the biopolitics of twentieth-century US liberalism.
Cotten Seiler; The Origins of White Care. Social Text 1 March 2020; 38 (1 (142)): 17–38. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-7971079
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