Humbling anthropology: Ego reflexivus and White ignorance

Victoria Louisa Klinkert


In this essay, I propose a process of humbling anthropology in order to counter the (re)production of White ignorance. I argue that anthropology’s epistemological foundation, in its contemporary liberal guise of an ego reflexivus, remains firmly rooted in the discipline’s colonial past. By drawing from my own experiences of confronting racism and Whiteness in the academy and the discipline, I trace my process of humbling and relate it to the anthropological ego and its (flawed) engagements with racism, Whiteness, and its colonial complicity, despite antiracist efforts by individual anthropologists, past and present. Moreover, I will reflect on what it is like to do an ethnography on White ignorance at elite universities in the global North, and what perceptual and conceptual steps of humbling are needed to counteract White ignorance, as well as its limits in order to forge an antiracist approach.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/713884