‘The Colonial Context of National Welfare: From Imperial Amnesia to “White Replacement”’

8 October 2020, 5.00 PM - 8 October 2020, 6.30 PM

Gurminder Bhambra

This talk responds to claims about ‘white replacement’ and the question of who is legitimately entitled to a share in the wealth of European nations, specifically Britain. Across the political spectrum, arguments about the demise of the welfare state associate it with processes of (racialized) migration. These, it is suggested, have contributed to the breakdown of the national and class solidarities necessary to the maintenance of social democracy. The fundamental assumption in such claims is that the ‘national patrimony’ available for distribution is precisely that – national. That is, it is wealth that has been generated through the activities of citizens in the UK over time. As such, its use and distribution ought to be regulated for ‘the people’ properly understood, whose contributions and efforts it represents, not for outsiders or immigrants. The key misunderstanding here is the idea that Britain has been a nation and that national assets have been built up internally to be passed on as an ‘inheritance’ to future citizens. In this talk, I address the processes of migration that created the British Empire and then discuss the ways in which colonialism and colonised populations were central to the building up of resources within the national state. The continued misrepresentation of Britain being a nation having an empire - rather than being an empire - is what enables people systematically to exclude from their considerations populations beyond the national frame, but who nonetheless contributed to what is then claimed as national wealth.


Gurminder K Bhambra is Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies in the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex and is a Fellow of the British Academy. She is author of Connected Sociologies (Bloomsbury, 2014) and the award-winning Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination (Palgrave, 2007). She is co-editor of Decolonising the University (Pluto Press, 2018) and has spoken regularly on the crisis for refugees in Europe and on questions of citizenship in the light of Brexit. She set up the Global Social Theory website (globalsocialtheory.org) and is co-editor of the social research magazine, Discover Society (discoversociety.org). She tweets @gkbhambra and her website is: http://gkbhambra.net/


To watch the recording of this talk, please visit the Centre's YouTube channel

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