Episode 15: There’s Something About Karen

Images of English women in the British Empire: White women often mediated and maintained the racial boundaries and voiced the racial presumptions and anxieties of the colonial worlds they inhabited. “Children left to the care and companionship of servants run a serious risk of acquiring bad habits,” advised one English mother in India, “of becoming unmannerly, and of developing in undesirable ways.” In Episode 15, we discuss how women of privilege become situated in racialized systems.


After a stop in St. Louis to discuss everyone’s newly favorite muzzle-challenged avatars of racial panic, the saucy boys turn to the main topic of the week: the “Karen Phenomenon”. First, Chris interviews educator – and partner-in-quarantine – Jenny Padgett about the necessity of self-reflection, education,  and listening for those who wish to de-Karenize themselves. Then Josh historicizes the phenomenon with a look into the “colonial Karens” of the imperial past. In the end, Karens existed in the colonies and continue to exist now because they serve the interests of a patriarchal, racialized power structure that requires collaborators who can “defend society from itself.”

To listen to Episode 15 The Trouble With Karen, click on the link below:


Sources Referenced and Items of Interest

Emma Larkin, “Introduction to Burmese Days”


Robert McCrum, “The 100 best novels: No 48 – A Passage to India by EM Forster”


Ann Laura Stoler, ed., Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History (2006)


Adam Weinstein, “Standing Their Ground in Well Manicured Yards: The Trump presidency has been a literal call to arms for excitable whites who view nonwhite people as inherent threats” (The New Republic, June 29, 2020)


Karen’s got a gun.

“It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.”

Michel Foucault

Contact us Historyagainstthegrain@gmail.com

%d bloggers like this: