Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Gail Hamner


affect, economy, innocence, liberal, subject, white

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


This thesis critiques white liberal subjectivity, primarily through the work of Claudia Rankine. In Rankine’s The White Card, she critiques white liberal subjectivity through the form of a play, a space of encounter. In the case of The White Card, the play’s primary encounter appears to be about white people encountering Black people, but in actuality the encounter resides in white people encountering their own white liberal subjectivity. In order to further conceive of how white liberal subjectivity functions, I draw from Gloria Wekker’s “white innocence” and Sara Ahmed’s “affective economies” to craft the lens of an affective economy of white innocence. An affective economy of white innocence demonstrates how affects both comprise collectivities, such as the white liberal subjectivity, as well as stratify collectivities from one another. In addition to Wekker and Ahmed, I place Rankine’s critique of white liberal subjectivity in dialogue with the works of thinkers such as Hortense Spillers, Franz Fanon, Sara Ahmed, and Saidiya Hartman. While the affect of guilt structures much of the white liberal subjectivity, I also consider how the affect of shame, as understood by George Yancy and James Cone, may access an otherwise to the white liberal subjectivity. Through these dialogues, I encounter the harms of white liberal subjectivities as well as an otherwise to white liberal subjectivities.


Open Access



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