Theorizing Black Europe; Strident Imperialists, Peripheral Colonial Beneficiaries and the contemporary politics of immigration and citizenship

Colloquium | February 1 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 2538 Channing (Inst. for the Study of Societal Issues), Wildavsky Conference Room

 Stephen A. Small, Associate Professor, African American Studies, UC Berkeley

 Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Contemporary Europe is made up of at least 46 nations, with an estimated population of 657 million people (2015). Although the vast majority of nations do not keep census data on race, I estimate there are no more than 8 million Black people in Europe, with the vast majority of them (at least 80%) resident in 12 nations. Mainstream academic knowledge production on Black people in Europe is preoccupied with recent and current immigrants, patterns of adaptation, and with the ideas of tolerance and gratitude. Most scholars typically disavow the relevance of racism in favor of ethnicity and nationality for understanding the inequality in which Black people find themselves today. It is overwhelmingly characterized by nation-specific studies that downplay colonial or imperialism involvement or their legacies, and consider Black people only as a marginal group subsumed under the far greater number of non-Black immigrants. In opposition, a smaller number of analysts inside and outside the academy embraces a framework that advocates knowledge production based on a recognition of citizenship, an evaluation of institutional racism, and an appreciation of rights and respect. This second group of analysts highlights the historical interconnections among nations in the growth of Black Europe, as well as their legacies; and foregrounds the dynamics of citizenship shaping Black people’s experiences at present.

Professor Small frames today’s presentation from the perspective of the second group of analysts. Small defines Black Europe as being constituted by four overlapping, non-linear components, that have unfolded historically and are manifest today, each of which is irrepressibly gendered. These four elements are race-thinking (including racist thinking), the institutional pillars of racialization, the Black cultural presence (tangible and intangible) and the Black human presence. In this way he brings an analysis of Black people and racism to the foreground, he reveals the ideological blinders institutionalized in the taken-for-granted assumptions of academic neutrality, including its colonialist language; he highlights issues of gender, race and intersectionality; and offers suggestions for how to think about the relationship between the underlying foundations of Black Europe, and the specifics of Black people in different nations in Europe.

 issi@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0813