Sexual Harassment or Volunteer Work?

Affordances of Differentiated Whiteness


  • Linda Lapina Roskilde University

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This article applies the notion of affordance to analyse affective, intersectional emergence of differentiated whiteness in the context of East to West migration after the enlargement of the European Union in 2004. I draw on autoethnography and memory work, juxtaposing encounters with two elderly, white, single and physically impaired Danish men in their homes in 2004 and 2014. Cleaning Ole’s apartment in 2004, I was invited to provide sexual services, passing as a sexualized, too young, unemployable female Eastern European love migrant of limited social value. In contrast, interviewing Carsten for my PhD in 2014, I came across as able-bodied, middle-class researcher, progressively feminine and fluent in, perhaps even, Danish. I heard no sexual undertones in Carsten’s invitation to ‘visit again’, instead perceiving it as a suggestion to become a voluntary visitor. Analyzing the affective flows in these encounters, I trace how markers of difference intersect to afford different whitenesses. I discuss how whiteness functions as an affordance, accumulated over time, emerging in situated, affective encounters and constraining bodies’ possibilities for interactions, movement and becoming. The article contributes to research on whiteness and intersectionality and to scholarship that explores emergence of ‘Europe’ by examining relations between centre/periphery and racial formations.[1]


[1] I would like to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. I am also grateful to Carsten for the time he took to talk to me as part of my fieldwork. This work was in part supported by the Independent Research Fund Denmark [1319-00042B].






Struggles over Europe: Postcolonial East/West Dynamics of Race, Gender and Sexua