Human beings are desperate to belong and our desire to be located in tribes is immensely powerful.

To what do we pay greatest allegiance? Family, language group, culture, country, gender? Religion, race? And if none of these matter, are we urbane, cosmopolitan, or simply lonely? In other words, how do we decide where we belong? What convinces us that we do? Our put another way, what is the matter with foreignness?

— Toni Morrison1

In a relatively abstract tribe like contemporary dance how do we know or recognise that we belong? How do we know or recognise that we don’t belong?

  1. Morrison, Toni. The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations. First edition. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019, p.8


You might say that gravity as a force (of attraction towards the earth) acts on us democratically. It doesn’t distinguish between anything or anyone. It just does its work.

But in questions of race, gravity sees colour:

No number of exciting black cultural artefacts can fight the pervasive gravity of default whiteness.

Jeffrey Boakye1

Much of what drives our interest in this research is the idea and experience of default whiteness.

because whiteness is privileged over colour, the norm is to never call attention to whiteness itself in ways that make white people uncomfortable. It’s expected, of course, to routinely draw attention to male and white and heterosexual people, since our society is centred on and identified with those groups. But that differs from drawing attention to ‘male,’ ‘heterosexual,’ or ‘white’ as social categories that are problematic.2

– Allan Johnson

Although Allan Johnson uses the word norm instead of default, it is the same thing. Whiteness is the invisible norm or default against which all others are made visible.


  2. Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. New York: McGraw-Hill Humanities, 2001, p.133.