Panel 4 – Theorising racism and nationalism – PSH326

Degrees of “Europeaness” on the Aegean Turkish-Greek border – Aila Spathopoulou, Kings College, University of London

In this paper, I use the conceptual frame of the ‘ship’ to illustrate concretely the materiality that is attached to the Aegean Turkish-Greek border, in relation to the two most recent patterns of mobility that have developed simultaneously on its waters; Turkish tourism and migratory movements. Through an ethnographic gaze along with some of the theoretical tools provided to us by the discipline of cultural studies, specifically Gilroy’s conceptual framework of the ‘ship’, as a micro-political and micro-cultural symbol in motion, I examine what I call the different degrees of proximity to ‘Europeaness’  that is, who is excluded and who is included in the name of Europe within these intense spaces of movement: the ferry on which the so called “White Turks” cross the border under the EU approved pilot visa scheme and the unseaworthy vessel with which the undocumented travelers struggle to reach the ‘European’ side. What a study of these two journeys reveals to us, I argue, rather than an ‘open’ door for some and a ‘closed wall’ for others, is a floating frontier which has brought nationalism and racism together, as the result of the externalized projection of “European” border zones. The ship, in other words, is an ideal space in movement to elaborate on the differences between  a neoliberal multiculturalism, which tends to expand a European nationalism, with Greek and/or Turkish accents, versus a more ‘planetary cosmopolitanism’ that captures the much larger nexus of lived spatial connections of and on the Aegean, between “Europe” and the many places beyond its borders from which migrants  and Turks come, as well as the connections linking Athens, the islands, and various places in Turkey from which migrants transit (e.g. Istanbul). Thus, I ask, what satisfies the requirements of upholding “European values”, in a context where such a high premium is placed on being useful and valuable to the EU-ropean project and the externalized projection of “European” border zones? Hence, this paper focuses on the political instrument of the ship in order to understand where and as what does “Europe” emerges on the Aegean space, as it is shaped by and shapes the “European” travelers and its “others”.

New Ethnicities, Neo-Conservatives, and the Declining Significance of Racism Thesis – Dr Ben Carrington, University of Texas at Austin

Abstract: According to contemporary neo-liberal and conservative discourses, modern western societies are no longer marked by the structuring effects of racism.  Where racial inequalities and differences are acknowledged to exist, these are explained away by recourse to supposedly more fundamental forms of class stratification or by invoking theories of (self-chosen) identifications made by “ethnic” groups whose cultural practices and decisions (re)produce self-harming outcomes. In either case, the present-day facticity of racism is denied, underpinned by a voluntarist theory of social action and boundary making. The declining significance of racism thesis is no longer an exclusively right wing ideological commitment but can increasingly be found within mainstream social science writing and within U.S. sociology in particular. This paper traces these arguments, using Andreas Wimmer’s (2013) widely praised Ethnic Boundary Making: Institutions, Power, Networks as an example of the rightward shift within American social science research on race and ethnicity. Significantly, Wimmer attempts to co-opt Les Back’s (1996) New Ethnicities and Urban Culture to his post-racism analytical framework.  Against this flawed reading, I instead situate Back’s work within the broader U.K. race and ethnicity cultural studies scholarship of the 1990s and show how (and why) Wimmer misreads Back’s seminal text.  The paper concludes by outlining the continuing significance of New Ethnicities and Urban Culture in helping us to understand the complex co-articulations of race, ethnicity and culture, and its importance as a necessary corrective to studies currently being produced by U.S. neo-conservative sociologists that seek to deny the lived materiality of racism and the violence of white supremacy.

New Ethnicities “before” Superdiversity: what analytical tools can provide and hide in the study of urban cultures – Dr Hannah Jones, University of Warwick

Vertovec’s influential 2007 essay coined ‘superdiversity,’ as a new term to understand a quantum leap in the size and complexity of migration flows in the early 21st century. Since then, the idea of superdiversity has exploded in both academic and policy literature. By bringing work on superdiversity into conversation with ethnographic work more influenced by a cultural studies approach, and drawing on empirical data from two research projects, I will suggest that the term distracts from analytical advances, rather than supporting them.

I will argue that (with exceptions), the term superdiversity has a tendency to erase questions of power from social analysis. In particular, it has a tendency to produce analysis based on an imagined ‘view from nowhere’ in which the status of the researcher in producing knowledge becomes hidden by imagining an ability to ‘to get away from presumptions about what is most important in particular areas’ (Humphris, 2015 p2-3) while specifically identifying areas for study and analysis because they are ‘superdiverse’ (implicitly, places of national, ethnic, cultural and other differences).

I will suggest that writing on superdiversity tend to be ahistorical (in that it neglects pre-21st century examples of complexly differentiated living) and conceptually blinkered (in that it ignores existing frameworks for understanding complex social formations, such as intersectionality). Questions of power are too easily lost in the conceptual fog of superdiversity. My argument is that, rather than investing in redefining or quibbling over superdiversity as a concept, analysis and understanding will be better advanced by using and developing the type of work seen in New Ethnicities and Urban Cultures and similar works, as models for engaging with culture, power and lived experience.