Europe’s rise to global dominance is inseparable from the invention of race as a key structuring principle of modernity. Yet, despite the geographic and intellectual origin of this concept in Europe and the explicitly race-based policies of both its fascist regimes and its colonial empires, the continent often is marginal at best in discourses on race. This is particularly true for contemporary configurations, which are often closely identified with the United States as center of both structural racism and of resistance to it.
Europe diverges from the US model of racialization in ways that tend to be misread, especially on the continent itself, as the absence of race as a relevant social and political category. Accordingly, most Europeans continue to believe that racial thinking has had no lasting impact on the continent, that race matters everywhere but in Europe and is brought there exclusively through non-white others, whose presence is perpetually perceived as recent, temporary, and problematically upsetting a prior non-racial normalcy. Contrary to this perception, while racial slavery and native dispossession and genocide were foundational to the United States, in Europe, the racializing of religion and colonialism fundamentally shaped and continue to shape the continental identity. Until recently, however, this history was virtually absent from public debates, official commemorations, and policy decisions.
This working group is devoted to exploring the numerous counter-histories challenging the dominant narrative of European “colorblindness,” among them the long history of European Roma and Sinti, the racialization of Muslims, the mainstreaming of white supremacy and the ongoing “refugee crisis,” European economic neocolonialism in Africa, anti-Blackness and the legacies of slavery and colonialism, the relationship between racism and anti-Semitism and strategies of resistance by racialized communities.