The taxonomic Gaze: Looking at Whiteness from East to West
In this article I consider representations of whiteness which emanate from outside the Euro-American centres. I argue that it is necessary to understand how whiteness has been seen by nonwhite observers, and that we need to be sensitive to local taxonomies of difference which are not always reducible to the white/non-white distinction which is hegemonic in the Euro-American centres. I consider the works of some artists and writers from early twentieth century Japan who are sensitive to their positioning in international hierarchies and who attempt to place themselves in a position of power in these gendered, classed, ethnicised and racialised hierarchies through their deployment of what I call the “taxonomic gaze”. I argue that the concept of whiteness needs to be historicised and provincialised, and that the field of whiteness studies itself also needs to be historicised.