19 June 2023, 5 – 6.30 p.m. on Zoom

Please register via EventBrite to get the link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ssahe-june-webinar-identity-politics-and-the-hostile-environment-tickets-627149359617

Are lefty anti-racists the ‘new elite’, forcing their politics onto the oppressed masses? Is racism against Travellers just like the prejudice redheads experience? Is it true that Conservative anti-migrant policies can’t be racist because they have so many BAME frontbenchers?

In this webinar we will explore the effects of different kinds of identity politics on political solidarity and resistance to policies of the hostile environment as well as fragmentations of such resistance movements. Our speakers will discuss how a focus on identity can serve to erase structural oppressions, but may also be the starting point for a deeper analysis of, and resistance to, these oppressions.  The relations between inter- and intra- group dynamics in the constructions of such identity politics will also be explored. We examine changes in government narratives on multiculturalism and diversity as well as contested narratives of racialisation and anti-racism and how these relate to different constructions of identity politics.

The speakers in the webinar will be:

Rima Saini | Post-racial politics and the ‘Brown Tory’

I will discuss the incongruity between rising ethnic diversity and fascistic discourse & policymaking in the senior echelons of the UK Conservative party within the context of (i) the colonial & postcolonial history of ethnic minority middle class formation in the UK and (ii) the post-racial politics (Bonilla-Silva 2003; St-Louis 2015) of the hyper-racial state. I argue that the supplanting of ‘antiracism’ with neoliberal ‘multiculturalism’ over recent decades has reduced issues of racial inequity to ones of diversity, identity and culture. This has been to the benefit of some ‘model’ minority groups over others, allowing a conservative ethnic minority elite, able and willing to legitimise state sanctioned racism, to flourish.

Rima is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Criminology and Sociology at Middlesex University. She is Co-Chair of Ethics for the School of Law, Co-Director of the Migration, Politics and Society Research Cluster, Social Policy Research Centre Co-Lead and Co-Chair of the Middlesex University Anti-Racism Network. She is also a Trustee of the British Sociological Association and Editorial Board Member of Sociology. Her recent publications include contributions to the BSA Sociological Futures series (forthcoming), Race and Class, South Asian Diaspora, Cultural Sociology, Politics, Ethnic and Racial Studies and Sociology. She is currently working on her monograph Politics, Belonging and Identity Across the British South Asian Middle Classes (Palgrave MacMillan). She tweets at @RimaSaini3105.

Ben Gidley | Culture wars and authoritarian populism

This presentation will look at how the right has used identity politics and culture wars to secure support for their authoritarian populist project in the context of the economic crisis. Political entrepreneurs on the (increasingly indistinguishable) mainstream and far right have promoted a divisive form of white grievance-focused identity politics based on rage and resentment. Migrant arrivals (along with moral panics around “critical race theory”) have been among the key emotive issues instrumentalised in this politics. As Winter and Mondon have argued, the blurring between liberal and illiberal politics has been a feature of this turn, with formerly centre-left academics playing some role in mainstreaming far right talking points. How can we rebuild anti-racist solidarity to resist authoritarian populism and the Hostile Environment?

Ben is a Reader in Sociology and Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. He is a board member, European Sociological Association Research Network 31 on Racism and Antisemitism; board member and social media officer, British and Irish Association of Jewish Studies; Research Associate of the Birkbeck Institute for the Study of Antisemitism; member of the International Centre on Racism at Edge Hill; Editorial Board member, MONITOR Global intelligence on Racism; and founder member of Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment. He is still tweeting at @bengidley.

Nira Yuval-Davis | Identity politics, intersectionality and solidarity

In this presentation I discuss the power of identity politics in mobilizing towards recognition and resistance. However, I also point out to some of its basic flaws of homogenization and reification and how this can affect and fragment left and feminist solidarities. The presentation uses recent contestations relating to racism and antisemitism in order to point out the danger of ‘oppression olympics’ and the reduction of social categories to a-historical homogenous social groupings.

Nira 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) and the editorial collective of Feminist Dissent. She has won the 2018 International Sociological Association Distinguished Award for Excellence in Research and Practice. Among her books are 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). No tweet but you can contact me on n.yuval-davis@uel.ac.uk

Chairs: Floya Anthias, Professor Emerita of Sociology and Social Justice at Roehampton University, London, and Gwyneth Lonergen, Lecturer in Social Sciences, Northumbria University.