UCL European Institute


The Language of Whiteness in Dutch and Beyond A lecture by Sibo Rugwiza Kanobana

05 February 2024, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm

witte orde

Attend the 2024 Centre for Low Countries Studies annual lecture, followed by a reception.

Event Information

Open to





Hans Demeyer


XGO3 Moot Court
Bentham House UCL
4/8 Endsleigh Gardens

In this year’s annual lecture, Sibo Kanobana presents his latest book, Witte orde. Over ras, klasse en witheid [White Order. On Race, Class and Whiteness] (2024; De Geus). His talk will start from the two distinct terms, ‘blank’ and ‘wit’, that are used in the Dutch language to refer to those phenomena denoted by ‘whiteness’ in English. He firstly offers an examination of the historical use of both words and their underlying tensions, and secondly proposes a comparative analysis of ‘blank’ and ‘wit’ with those terms commonly used to signify whiteness in the context of the Democratic Republic Congo, the former Belgian Congo, such as ‘mzungu’ in KiSwahili and ‘mondele’ in Lingala. Through this comprehensive linguistic examination of terminology related to whiteness and building upon the work of Charles W. Mills, Kanobana demonstrates how whiteness is interconnected with ideas of race as well as class and discusses its ongoing effects in contemporary (Belgian) society where discussions of racism are still too exclusively centred on colour.

Sibo Rugwiza Kanobana is Assistant Professor in Sociolinguistics and Cultural Studies at the Open University of the Netherlands and postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Conflict and Development at Ghent University, Belgium. He is co-author of De bastaards van onze kolonie: verzwegen verhalen van Belgische metissen (2010) [The Bastards of our Colony: Silenced Stories of Belgian 'Metissen'], about the silenced history of mixed-race children in colonial Congo, and edited Zwarte bladzijden. Afro-Belgische reflecties op Vlaamse (post)koloniale literatuur (2021) [Black Pages: Afro-Belgian Reflections on Flemish (Post)Colonial Literature]. He is an editor of rekto:verso, a Flemish magazine of cultural critique.