Opening the walls of whiteness
: A literature study about institutional whiteness and the decolonisation of universities

  • Berend Corstens

Student thesis: Master's Thesis: Humanistic Studies


Universities increasingly take issues of decolonisation and racism more seriously. Yet an analysis of how whiteness is institutionalised and how this relates to colonialism is often missing when they engage with these matters. In this study the question “How does the university’s self-examination of institutional whiteness aim to contribute to its decolonisation?” is central. The research is a thematic literature analysis, conducted in line with the paradigm of critical theory. I analysed the overall arguments of decolonial and CRT scholars, by specifically focussing on how institutional whiteness (IW) functions and how critically self-examining IW aims to help moving towards social and epistemic justice in relation to knowledge and knowledge production. A self-examination of IW investigates how universities, and the bodies present within those institutions, can rethink their foundations, objectives and responsibilities regarding the composition of its own staff and student population, physical infrastructure, social/cultural norms and curricula. Based on my analysis of decolonial and CRT scholarship, I argue that self-examining institutional whiteness can contribute to decolonising universities, by increasing awareness about (hidden) norms, grounded in contexts of colonialism, that are structurally engrained within universities.
Date of Award8 Jan 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorA. C. (Caroline) Suransky (Supervisor) & Wouter Sanderse (Supervisor)

Cite this