Theorizing Race, Gender and Citizenship in Black Europe: Issues, Debates and Frameworks, Inside and Outside the Academy: CRG Thursday Forum Series

Lecture | February 16 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 691 Barrows Hall

 Prof. Stephen Small, African American Studies

 Center for Race and Gender

The Center for Race & Gender Thursday Forum Series presents...

Theorizing Race, Gender & Citizenship in Black Europe: Issues, Debates and Frameworks, Inside & Outside the Academy
Prof. Stephen Small, African American Studies

Scholarly research at universities across Europe on the sociology and political economy of gender and intersectionality focuses inordinately on white women. Most research on women of color focuses inordinately on current immigrants. How gender shapes the lives of men of color, including Black men, in terms of inequality, masculinity, caricatures of male violence, crime and sexuality, is typically marginalized. Except in cases where men are held culturally responsible for ruining the lives of women (and children) of color, or inhibiting their activism and agency.

Far fewer scholars address how gender shapes the lives of Black women and men, especially Black women that are citizens, largely because most research of this kind is typically carried out by Black women, and because race/gender institutional exclusions operating across Europe means there are only miniscule numbers of Black women in the European academy. And yet research on Black citizens produced by some of these scholars reveals more fundamental, more enduring, and more insightful issues than do studies of immigrants alone. Namely that the intersecting obstacles of institutional racism, inequality, stereotypes and violence that thwart Black women’s (and men’s) aspirations and limit their agency and activism, as well as the intense psychological burdens this places on them, do not stop when Black women become citizens. In other words, the combined assault on the Black body and the Black mindset continues long after Black women become citizens - it is interminable. It arises from the contemporary racialized and gendered formation of European nations, rather than from the contingencies, location or timing of immigrant arrival. These issues are far more likely to be revealed in an analysis of the institutional practices that flow from state ideologies, public policies, and the social imaginary than in studies of immigration.

In today’s presentation, I consider scholarly research on race, gender and citizenship in Black Europe today. What are the main issues analyzed and researched by mainstream scholars across Europe today? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this analysis and research? And what are the distinctive contributions of research on citizens rather than immigrants? I identify the common elements underlying the institutional forces shaping race, gender and Black women in the nations across (mainly) Western Europe; and I explore research on the efforts being taken to confront and reverse these forces. I define and describe several key elements of Black Europe, which I conceptualize as a contemporary matrix of political, social and ideological factors, heavily influenced by its historical growth. I argue that the racial formation of Black Europe is evident in four key elements - race-thinking (including racist thinking), the institutional pillars of racialization, the Black cultural presence (tangible and intangible) and the Black human presence. Each of these elements is irrepressibly gendered.

Given that there is far more knowledge production on race/gender by individuals and groups outside the academy than inside it I also identify and draw upon oppositional, collaborative and independent knowledge and consider how it challenges, extends or provide alternative insights to knowledge produced inside the academy.