Coloniality, Race and Europeanness: Britain’s Borders after Brexit

Zapraszamy na 45. Seminarium Migracyjne, organizowane we współpracy z Instytutem Slawistyki PAN. Tym razem gościć będziemy dr Aleksandrę Lewicki (University of Sussex). Spotkanie odbędzie się online, w języku angielskim. 

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The scholarship on the politics of immigration often frames governments’ responses to far-right mobilisation as a return to border closures and a rowing back on neoliberalism. In this talk, I draw on and expand the scholarship on coloniality to address the limitations of this diagnosis. Specifically, I explore the role of political mobilisation in the making of the post-Brexit border regime. My research draws on the analysis of legal and policy initiatives between 2020-2023 and 23 research interviews with individuals who express their opposition to immigration via engagement in think tanks, grassroots organisations and vigilante groups. The interview data indicates multiple connections between these milieus and shows that each engages in action repertoires beyond the nation-state. And while this prompts border closures, the post-Brexit border regime also encodes openings and loopholes for the circulation of financial elites and precariously employed workers. Thus, I argue that state and non-state actors co-produce a neoliberal border regime of stratified rights, partial inclusions, and gradual exclusions. These variegated entitlements draw on and reinvigorate the racial order of coloniality. The post-Brexit immigration regime enables the free mobility of those racialised as ‘West European’, facilitates disposable labour mobility of those racialised as ‘Eastern European’, and restricts the movement of those racialised as ‘non-European’. This racial imaginary does not only operate via binary distinctions of (non)-Britishness but puts people in complex hierarchical relations to ‘Europeanness’.

Aleksandra Lewicki is Director of the Sussex European Institute and Reader in Sociology at the University of Sussex. Her work investigates boundary-making and structural inequalities in postcolonial Europe. In particular, she is interested in political mobilisation, and the role institutions play in crafting and sustaining categories of difference. She studies how such categorisations travel in institutions and shape biographical trajectories, but also how they are subverted and reappropriated in post-migration contexts. She has written on citizenship and activism, institutional racism in the welfare state, and the (often ambiguous) racialisation of people read as ‘Muslims’ or ‘Eastern Europeans’ in Britain and Germany. Her scholarship has appeared in leading international journals such as Sociology, The Sociological Review, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Patterns of Prejudice, Citizenship Studies and Ethnic and Racial Studies. She is a member of the editorial team of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (JEMS).

Recommended readings:

  • Lewicki Aleksandra. 2023. East–west inequalities and the ambiguous racialisation of ‘Eastern Europeans’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 49(6): 1481-1499, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2022.2154910 [Open Access]
  • Lewicki, Aleksandra. 2024. Coloniality, Race and Europeanness: Britain’s Borders after Brexit, International Political Sociology [Accepted & Forthcoming]
  • Nowicka, Magdalena. 2024. Is it Antislavic racism, or how to speak about liminality, stigma, and racism in Europe. Sociology Compas, DOI: 10.1111/soc4.13190 [Open Access]