In the wake of protests erupting in the summer of 2020 as a result of the killing of George Floyd, IMISCOE launched a seminar series initiated by the Anti-Discrimination Working Group led by Parvati Raghuram. The second seminar, chaired by Guia Gilardoni, explored questions ranging from the historical context of the current debate to the role of research and the potential of change. Insights on these topics were shared from the perspective of Monika Bobako on Poland, Zsuzsa Vidra on Hungary, Anders Neergaard on Sweden, and Yvonne Riaño & Stefanie Boulila on Switzerland.
The second seminar of the series focused on countries that exhibited a peripheral position in European colonialism. These positions create the need to conceptualize racism and discrimination in these countries differently as argued by Monika Bobako. For instance, Bobako elaborated on Poland's system of serfdom which established a clear division and hierarchy between nobility and peasants. Additionally, Anders Neergaard introduced the dimension of internal colonialism practiced in Sweden which affected minority groups such as the Sami and Swedish-Finns.
Another focal point of the conversation was the current environment in which race is addressed. The debate showcased that governments continue to play an essential role in shaping the debate about racism within the national context. For instance, Zsuzsa Vidra elaborated on the Hungarian government's depiction of immigration as a national security threat to actively mobilize voters. Additionally, Poland has been experiencing a concerning development of institutional silencing of research into discrimination as explained by Monika Bobako.
Despite the concerning state of the public and political debate on racism, the speakers highlighted the significant impact of the Black Lives Matter movement. Anders Neergaard described a shift from white-dominated anti-racism towards the self-organization of marginalized groups as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement in Sweden. Similar developments have been voiced by the other speakers. Furthermore, the movement introduced the institutionalized nature of racism into the public debate; an unprecedented development in the Swiss context, as argued by Stefanie Boulila.
Nonetheless, attention was drawn by speakers to the current limitations of research. In the Swiss context, Yvonne Riaño elaborated on the clear lack of data and research into racism, and any existing state-sponsored attempts to examine racism have been characterized by problematic methodologies. Furthermore, there is a need to critically examine the use of terminology. Anders Neergaard criticized the use of the term ‘second-generation migrant’ which frames migration not as a process but as a human characteristic.
It remains crucial to continue the discussion about racism and discrimination in Europe by critically reflecting on different national developments. IMISCOE strives to continue this crucial conversation in the final seminar of the series on February the 2nd and other future initiatives organized by the Anti-Racism Working Group. For those who were unable to attend the first seminar, a recording of the full seminar can be accessed on the IMISCOE Website along with relevant literature provided by the speakers and participants.
By Leo Wohrle
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