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Imposing Racialised State Discourses: Racism In Britain Today

5:00 pm - 6:30 pm | 08 February 2021
Online | Free

Under the Boris Johnson government there has been growing interventionism on how racism and antisemitism are defined and what schools and universities can teach. Guidelines have been introduced which curtail the use of critical race theory and require the acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

The guidance produced by the Department for Education bars schools from using resources produced by organisations that take “extreme political stances”, which, from their point of view, could potentially include groups like Black Lives Matter and Jewish Voice for Labour. More than 80 leading academics have criticised the government for misrepresenting critical race theory in their crackdown on teaching materials in schools. Such government interventions can have the effect of stifling debate and critical thinking. Similar issues would seem to be at work in the scandal which has been dubbed ‘Operation Trojan Horse’. In this case, the educational authorities alleged that there was a conspiracy involving organised attempts by teachers to introduce an “Islamist” and “Salafist” ethos in several schools in Birmingham. In addition, the government’s Minister of Education, Gavin Williamson, has written to all UK universities’ Vice-Chancellors, pressurising them to adopt the controversial IHRA ‘working definition of antisemitism’, threatening them with sanction if they do not do this by December.

In addition to such forms of interventionism and the stifling of debate, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has been politicised and David Goodhart and Jessica Butcher have been recently appointed to its Board of Commissioners. Controversially, David Goodhart, in his 2013 book, The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post -war Immigration, argues that ‘high immigration can undermine national solidarity and be a threat to social democratic ideals’. He is strongly in favour of reducing immigration, and on integrating (read assimilating) immigrants. More recently, in 2018, he suggested that the Windrush scandal should not lead to the watering down of the ‘hostile environment’.

Similarly, Board member Jessica Butcher, has criticised the Me Too movement and argued that the ‘victim narrative’ of modern feminism disempowers women. In other words, these appointments of prominent figures on the right of the political spectrum raise questions about the future political direction of EHRC.

Issues are raised about the shape and form that racisms are taking in today’s Britain and the contradictory nature of government interventions. Equality talk (alongside problematic measures) and antiracist sentiments are accompanied by the continuation of the “hostile environment”, epitomised most strongly by the Windrush scandal. There is curtailment of freedom on schools to address critical issues of race and racism as well as the appointment of figures like David Goodhart to important positions within the governmental apparatus that purportedly addresses combatting racisms.

We use the term ‘racisms’ in the plural, given that there are a number of different and distinctive racisms present in Britain today. They vary according to the socio-economic, political and cultural conditions in which they are embedded. The specificity of these racisms is also linked to the history of different social groups who feature as racisms’ targets. These varieties of racism include anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-Middle Eastern, and anti-Jewish racisms, the last commonly referred to as antisemitism.

This webinar engages with questions such as:

  • What are the forms that racisms take in Britain today?
  • How do we understand the policies and practices which have been developed to address racisms?
  • What are the central issues relating to the role of the EHRC and how do we tackle racisms in different forms?
  • How should we tackle antisemitism as a form of racism given the adoption of the IHRA definition formally by the Commission?

Register to attend here

Speakers:

Malcolm Richards:

Title of presentation: Legacy Work: Black educators, resistance, and anti-racism in hostile education environments

Malcolm Richards is a co-founder of the Black Educators Alliance (BEA), an anti-racist network of ‘Black’ educators committed to radically transforming inequitable structures and institutions. Along with the Coalition of Anti-Racist Educators, BEA has launched legal action against the government to challenge new guidelines for the teaching of Relationships and Sex Education – stating schools must not use materials from anti-capitalist groups, promote “victim narratives” or make certain accusations against state institutions.

Malcolm is a secondary school teacher, a trade union activist, and a doctoral researcher at the University of Exeter. His research adopts a critical auto-ethnographic approach, examining how progressive educators apply funds of resistance through digital resources from Black cultural education domains, to facilitate ‘critical’ dialogue in UK schools. He is the founder and director of The Culture Yard (UK), a cultural community and social justice education project in the South West of England and co-editor of Beyond The Blockade: Education in Cuba (2020).

Nira Yuval-Davis:

Title of presentation: The IHRA definition of antisemitism and racialised discourses in Britain

Nira Yuval-Davis, FAcSS, FRSA, is Professor Emeritus, Honorary Director of the Research Centre on Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB) at the University of East London. A diasporic Israeli socialist feminist, Nira has been active in different forums against racism and sexism in Israel and other settler colonial states as well as in the UK and other European countries. She has been the President of the Research Committee 05 (on Racism, Nationalism, Indigeneity and Ethnic Relations) of the International Sociological Association. She has been a founder member of WAF (Women Against Fundamentalism) as well as of SSAHE (Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment) and is a member of the Education group of JVL (Jewish Voice for Labour). She has won the 2018 International Sociological Association Distinguished Award for Excellence in Research and Practice. Nira Yuval-Davis has written widely on intersected gendered nationalisms, racisms, fundamentalisms, citizenships, identities, belonging/s and everyday bordering. Among her books Israel and the Palestinians, 1975,Woman-Nation-State, 1989, Racialized Boundaries, 1992, Unsettling Settler Societies, 1995, Gender and Nation,1997, The Warning Signs of Fundamentalism, 2004, The Politics of Belonging: Intersectional Contestations, 2011, Women Against Fundamentalism, 2014 and Bordering, 2019. Her 1984 Spare Rib article ‘ Antisemitism, Zionism and the Struggle against Racism’ was republished in Feminist Review in 2019. Her works have been translated into more than ten languages.

Colin Prescod:

Title of presentation: The state, the hostile environment, and Black lives: the case for insurgent social science intervention.

Over some five decades Colin Prescod has variously worked as an academic sociologist, documentary film maker (Black British community struggles against racism and for belonging), theatre maker, TV (BBC) commissioning editor, cultural animator (specifically in museums, archives, and heritage sector). Notable 21st century exhibition credits include at the Museum of London (Docklands) London, Sugar and Slavery permanent gallery(2007), at the Guildhall Art Gallery, London, No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960–1990(2015) and, at the British Library, Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land (2018). He is Chair of the Council of the Institute of Race Relations, and a member of the Editorial Working Committee of the IRR’s journal ‘Race and Class’.

Biographical notes of the Co-Chairs:

Floya Anthias, FAcSS, is an anti-racist and socialist feminist academic whose work has been concerned with inequalities and different forms of oppression and power relations and their intersections. Having held professorships at a number of UK Universities, she is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Social Justice at the University of Roehampton. Floya was born in Cyprus and migrated as a small child with her parents to Britain. Her most recent book is Translocational Belongings: Intersectional Dilemmas and Social Inequalities (Routledge 2020)

Floya’s books include Woman Nation State, Palgrave; Racialised Boundaries: nation, race, ethnicity, colour and class and the anti-racist struggle, Routledge; Ethnicity, Class, Gender and Migration, Greek Cypriots in Britain, Ashgate; Into the Margins: Migration and Exclusion in Southern Europe, Routledge; Gender and Migration in Southern Europe: women on the move, Routledge; Rethinking Anti-racisms: from theory to practice, Routledge; Paradoxes of Integration: Female Migrants in Europe, Springer; Contesting Integration, Engendering Migration, Palgrave; and Work and the Challenges of Belonging, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Avtar Brah, FAcSS, is Professor Emerita at Birkbeck College, University of London. She has published widely on questions culture, racism, ethnicity, and gender. She is one of the pioneers in the field of Diaspora Studies. Her books include Cartographies of Diaspora/Contesting Identities; Hybridity and its Discontents (co-edits with Annie E.Coombes); Thinking Identities; and, Global Futures(both co-edited with Mary Hickman and Mairtin Mac an Ghail).

Rachel Rosen is an Associate Professor of Childhood at UCL. Her research concerns unequal childhoods at the intersections of generation, migration, and social reproduction. Current research includes ‘Social reproduction in the shadows: migrant mothers and children with NRPF’ and ‘Solidarities: negotiating migrant deservingness’.

Header image: © FT montage; Getty Images; PA

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