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Image "Forrest Gump" by Gustavo Viselner, CC BY-NC 4.0

Guest Lecture

“From Forrest Gump to Donald Trump: Whiteness in the Post-Civil Rights Era” 

Dr. Robert A. Winkler (Justus Liebig University Giessen)

15 January, 2020 | 6 p.m. | Room S 251 | Classen-Kappelmann-Str. 24.

part of Dr. Judith Hofmann's seminar "Reading in the Age of Trump"


This lecture explores the historical roots and ongoing significance of the identity category of whiteness in and for US-American society and culture. In the aftermath of the African American Civil Rights Movement, the USA was shrouded in the myth of having become a ‘colorblind’ or ‘post-racial’ society. The #BlackLivesMatter movement, racially motivated hate crimes like the 2015 Charleston Church Shooting and not least the presidency of Donald Trump, however, have recently made obvious how whiteness and white supremacy still structure US-American society and culture. 

The lecture pursues four goals: Firstly, it briefly traces the history of the concept of whiteness, which reaches back to the violent colonialization of the North American continent by English settlers. Secondly, the lecture explores how and why whiteness and race ‘vanished’ from discourse in the Post-Civil Rights Era and reemerged during the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Thirdly, it analyses how this particular identity category manifests itself in and structures pop-cultural artefacts, such as Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down (1993) or Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump (1994). Finally, the lecture is concerned with coming to terms with whiteness, or rather, how to didactically raise awareness of its power against the background of the intersectional interwovenness of race, class, gender and other categories of identity.