The Souls of White “Volk” – Ausstellung

Studium Generale der UdK Berlin

Digital Exhibition curated by Prof. Dr. Natasha A. Kelly

In his often-overlooked essay The Souls of White Folk, originally published in 1910 and substantially revised and reprinted in 1920, African American scientist, journalist, and activist W.E.B Du Bois questions the supremacy and privilege of white people and the possibility of their invisibility, neutrality, and universality long before the public discourse on Critical Whiteness began. He argues that the worldwide historical, cultural, social, political, legal, and economic impact of white supremacy, as well as its influence in the early 20th century, is "the new religion of whiteness." At this time, the political upheaval in Germany was looming, which ultimately led to the First World War (1914 – 1918) and the emergence of the Weimar Republic (1919 – 1934), where the concept of whiteness was continuously constructed and reinforced through social, cultural, historical and political means that simultaneously erased Jewish and/or Black German voices and narratives and eventually led to the rise of National Socialism and Germany’s self-destruction in World War II.

Du Bois’ text prompted students to engage in introspection, unveiling whiteness and critically examining the construction and implications of white German identity in the Weimar Republic by exploring the question what defines the souls of white people. They reflected on the continuity of racial ideologies, colonial legacies, and prevailing social hierarchies of the era, exposing hidden biases and systemic racism ingrained within society today. Through this process, they visualized the complex relationship between whiteness and art and explored how the history of whiteness in Germany continues to find expression, be challenged, and impact the present, particularly by right-wing populists.

Trailer Project Launch: Impressions of the official opening of “The Souls of White ‘Volk’” curated by Prof. Dr. Natasha A. Kelly