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There is a long tradition within the United States of constructing whiteness (the racial subject) against racialized others (the racial object) and in the process displacing the focus of critical analysis. Here we turn our lens to the often invisible--or at least underinterrogated--concept of whiteness within the context of the literature on racial disparities in health. Specifically, we examine how whiteness is constructed in the active literature documenting and interpreting racial disparities in health and the implications of these constructions for efforts to eradicate inequalities in health. We draw on the concepts of racial formation and "racial projects" that emphasize the fluidity, mutability, and historically constructed nature of race, as well as the social and political processes through which racial categories are created and transformed. A racial project is simultaneously an interpretation, representation, or explanation of racial dynamics. In particular, we apply Winant's concept (1997) of "racial projects" to examine the construction of whiteness in ongoing dialogues about race and racial disparities in health. We consider the ways that varying constructions of whiteness enter into, influence, and are influenced by discussions of racial disparities in health, and the role of those constructions in the reproduction or disruption of racial categories and the inequitable distribution of resources along racial lines.


This book chapter originally appeared inHealth and illness at the intersections of gender, race and class (Jossey-Bass Publishing).



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