White Spaces Network

Race, religion and the ‘Other’ in the making of European identity

27 October 2011
Universities of Leeds, Southampton and Sydney

Recording of the Seminar

Principal Reading

Postgraduate Convenors

Participant Introductions

The idea of these WUN sponsored virtual seminars is that we build a sense of community amongst postgraduate scholars working or with an interest in the broad field of Critical Whiteness Studies within core White Spaces partner institutions. The idea is to extend our scholarly networks, in particular to move us out of our specific national and regional intellectual contexts.  To this end, we will begin the seminar with a brief ‘whip-around’ about our projects.

Lead discussants: Daria Tkacz & Maryam Alryami (Soton)

Fatima El-Tayeb: “The Birth of a European Public”

In the wake of a global era, the European Union appears as the first supranational system to undergo an ‘internal reconstitution’. El-Tayeb’s discourse analysis on Europe’s past and future uses a postcolonial lens to focus on the reconstitution of memory, identity and migration. The first point of discussion is the significance of history in memory, and in particular situating identity within a place. In other words, how does the inclusion/exclusion of colonial history contribute to situating identity for both ‘white’ and ‘migrant’ social groups? A second point for discussion is on the role of race and religion in the ‘othering’ of social groups in relation to belonging. In what ways do these categories of social difference contribute to exclusionary processes in the making of a future European identity since the “internalist narrative of Europe” is depicted as predominantly a white history and exclusionist? What are the implications of this?

Matt Carr: ‘You are now entering Eurabia’

The sentiments associated with ‘European values’ and the belief in the continent’s cultural unity seems to be particularly pronounced in the presence of the racialized ‘Other’. Carr’s article provides an overview of arguments deployed by the proponents of the concept of ‘Eurabia’, which presents Europe as facing the risk of extinction and transformation into an Islamic colony. Importantly, these ideas find support among influential journalists, historians and intellectuals, who together appear to neglect the scientific discipline and the need for objective evidence in favour of stereotyping and historical comparisons.

The style in which ‘Muslim-conspiracy’ arguments are articulated is worth considering in itself: how powerful is the constant use of references to religious and national loyalty for creating a widespread hostility and feelings of threat? How is symbolism adopted to signify the cultural differences and strengthen the distrust of the ‘Other’? The ‘Eurabia’ discourse presents a number of values as exclusively European and, by implication, as superior to those represented by Islam. The cultural contribution of Muslim immigrants is never acknowledged, since for the advocates/critics of ‘Eurabia’ they are considered primarily as a threat to everything ‘advanced, noble and European’.  How influential are these radical views? How might an alternative voice be successfully articulated?

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