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Beyond Anti-Racism: Etnographies of Antiracism and Conviviality

What after all, are antiracist in favour of ? Gilroy (1998: 53)


We have for the last decades seen the emergence of new forms of racist mobilisation and action across European societies framed through radical critique towards multiculturalism and towards migration in general but especially refugees. Such mobilisations have been explained in different ways ranging from seeing it as a result of fears and concerns about the impact of new patterns of migration and unrest in cities, economic insecurity, failure of political leadership, political populism or racialisation of exploitation. These general European trends have increasingly come to dominate Swedish socio-political debate focussing especially on too many refugees and the failure of integration.

Resistance against diverse forms of racism and against established extreme right wing xenophobic parties have also expanded throughout Europe, as have mobilisations defending the right to asylum, probably best exemplified in the ‘refugee welcome’ movements. Beside these more high profile forms of resistance there has also been a more low key resistance within and towards institutional discrimination of migrants and racialised citizens focusing on everyday forms of integration and solidarity. On the whole scholarship on anti-racist movements and organisations remains marginal to studies of contemporary European societies. We have put together this proposal in order to address this notable gap in scholarship and research.

While postcolonial, race critical theory and antiracist inspired scholarship has expanded and further developed fundamental knowledge on racism (although much research is still needed), there is still very little knowledge concerning how people envisions forms of living together beyond racism, what we broadly define as anti-racist strategies and visions. Given the situation in which xenophobia and racism is increasingly institutionalised there is a need for research on the role of networks, civil society organisations,social movements and welfare-state employees not only resisting but also developing alternative societal agendas.

We want to locate ourselves within an epistemological tradition that explores the possibility and the doing of hope and within a theoretical tradition that develops analytical categories to grasp both the conflicts and tensions but also the new forms of collaboration and the interaction of togetherness.  In other words : along local and global tensions and conflicts, and narratives of loss and nostalgia, there are emerging institutional initiatives, everyday forms of organization and solidarity and displays of agency not only aiming at resistance but in extension towards social inclusion and empowerment, what postcolonial scholar Paul Gilroy would grasp through the concept of conviviality.

The aim of the research project is to explore antiracist ideas, antiracist practices and embodied experiences contribution to the practice of conviviality in different societal settings, with particular focus on two categories of people that for different reasons seen as central in capturing antiracism and everyday practices of conviviality; women and migrants.

We want to analyse the possibilities and shortcomings of anti-racism as a political ideology and as an organisational practice. Likewise, we wish to explore what kind of social transformations anti-racists envisage in the everyday practice of antiracism, what are the tensions between antiracist visions they employ and the operationalisaiton of these and particularly how gender and race/ethnicity is understood and acted upon within these diversified and heterogeneous practices.

The research aim is operationalised through the following questions:

  • Is anti-racism related in everyday practices to communities of belonging and cultures of memories/remembrance (the Shoah, colonialism, migration, war, dictatorship, occupation etc.)? How far and in which ways?
  • What do anti-racists say they want and why? What forms of everyday practices do these visions enable /hinder?  Who invests in an anti-racist identity and how are these investments linked to transformations of understanding of both self and others within family, friendship and communities? ‘
  • What is the role of women within antiracist networks, organisations and social movements? How do these diverse groups of women understand the role of culture, “colour” and religion for anti-racist agendas, and how is it given meaning and act upon among members?  How is antiracism linked to feminism and equality?
  • How do anti-racist practices at the level of civil society align with anti-racist practices at the level of the municipality and at the national? How do professionals and welfare bureaucrats define anti-racist practices? How are they evaluated and acted upon?
  • What kind of participation and in which forms do migrant/minority organisations have in anti-racist movements? What is the relationship (if any) between antiracist organisations and networks and national minorities and indigenous populations?