Since the end of the Cold War, Europe’s engagements with the postcolonial and post-socialist worlds have been framed by a modernist teleology: the promotion of a supposedly desirable march towards liberal capitalism, democracy ad rights (Gille, 2010). Europeanization – the process of becoming “European” by adhering to specific standards in policies, economic relations and societal norms – has often been studied as a technical-juridical endeavor in the mainstream social sciences. Yet postcolonial and postsocialist studies have shown how “claims to proper whiteness” as a marker of Europeanness are central to these processes (Lewicki, 2020: 5; Krivonos, 2018), thus foregrounding the role of race and racialization. Recent contributions in critical migration, development and humanitarian studies, focusing on the relations between Europe and the Global South, confirm these insights. Violence – both the epistemic violence of development interventions and the very material, if ambivalent, violence of borders and military interventions – features prominently in these accounts (Lopez et al., 2015; Pallister-Wilkins, forthcoming; Rutazibwa, 2014; 2019; Weizman, 2011).
This edited volume advances these debates by theorizing Europeanization as violence. In doing so, we are interested not only in the “kinetic force or physical violence” (Lopez et al., 2015) of European politics, increasingly visible, for instance, in European Union (EU)-sanctioned border enforcement. We also foreground forms of structural and epistemic violence within the institutions, laws and technocratic apparatuses that make up the “moral technologies” of development and humanitarian aid, as promoted by European powers (Lopez et al. 2015: 2233). We thus contribute to a growing body of work that theorizes the violence of humanitarianism and liberal benevolence, by considering how imaginaries of Europe and Europeanness are at play in them (Lopez et al., 2015; Pallister-Wilkins, forthcoming; Rutazibwa, 2019; Weizman, 2011). In particular, drawing on postcolonial, post-socialist and decolonial approaches, we explore how these configurations of violence operate through conceptions of Europeanness that are racialized and gendered. We bring together contributions across disciplines including sociology, development, geography, anthropology and international studies.
Our endeavor moves from recent research that invites us to a radical re-thinking of the historical and imaginative geographies of Europe. In the dominant social scientific imaginary, “Europe” continues to feature as a homogenous geo-historical entity, an “unmarked category” (Boatcă, 2020) with supposedly stable and coherent borders. This discourse of Europe-as-a-container leaves Europe’s internal geopolitics and hierarchies, as well as a geographical displacement of European borders undiscussed – or at least, like in the case of critical migration scholarship, the latter is often discussed as a recent phenomenon. But if post- and decolonial perspectives are taken seriously, Europe rather emerges as a historical anomaly, with unacknowledged borders spreading across the islands in the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, North Africa, as well as contested and contingent borders in the east of the continent (Boatcă, 2020). We thus observe a double dynamic: contemporary borders of Europe being spread across the globe through the project of European colonialism, with Global “post-socialist” East being placed in a perpetual catching-up position in relation to (western) Europe. And while in recent decades, a bourgeoning amount of scholarly work has started to explore the colonial project of Europe and its borders (Grovogui, 1996; Bhambra, 2007; Hansen & Jonsson, 2014; Picozza, 2021), this work has been uprooted from dialogues with the work on Eastern Europe and post-socialism, which explored the struggles over definitions of Europeanness in the East of the continent. Despite the land continuum with Eurasia, “Europe” is often discussed as a given continent (Dainotto, 2006). An imaginary of Europe as Western Europe is reproduced when locating the East of Europe in the slot of “area studies” and evacuating the East from the theoretical arguments on race, coloniality and Europeanness. This dominant vision of the world continues to reproduce the old “three worlds” meta-geography, which divides spaces into either “postsocialist” or “postcolonial”.
In Europeanization as Violence, we argue that both the Global South and the East, that is, both the post-colonial and post-socialist perspectives are needed to examine the workings of Europeanisation as violence beyond the typically imagined borders of Europe-as-container. Following sociologist Manuela Boatcă’s work, we understand the spaces beyond the imagined borders of Europe as “Forgotten Europes”. Europeanization as Violence questions Eurocentrism from the perspective of “forgotten Europes”. Drawing on scholarly work committed to decolonization, we question teleological narratives of Europeanisation as a gradual and steady process towards capitalism, freedom and democracy. A supposed linear temporal progression elides what might be better understood as an old space-time dynamic, in which non-Western Others are already and forever located in the past, always arriving “too late”, to borrow from Franz Fanon.
These constructions of humanity are inextricably racialised, that is, placed at various distances from liberal humanity. This is why we place race and racialisation at the centre of Europeanisation as violence. Considering Europeanization as racial offers “a contrast from an incessant focus on the logics of unqualifiedly racially repressive cases such as the US, or South Africa”, that allow the reproduction of a “European racial denial” that has made “ race in the wake of World War II categorically to implode, to erase itself” (Goldberg, 2006: 333-334).
We locate out contribution in dialogue with recent work on colonialism and social theory. This is the first volume to bring both the Global South and East under the framework of “Forgotten Europes”. The edited volume offers a critique of the epistemic hegemony of “core” European metropoles, from which rethinking of Europe has taken place. The authors of the edited volume speak from different positions in the context of global epistemic inequalities.
Violence is one of the central concepts of the edited volume, which is analytically paired with the notion of Europeanisation and European modernity. Post- and decolonial work has importantly and extensively argued that abstract promises of freedom obscure their embeddedness within colonial relations of exploitation, bordering and coerced labour. This work reminds us that the classic Eurocentric theorizing of the state monopoly on the use of violence should be analytically understood with the perpetration of violence by modern European states in the colonies and in other non-European and non-Western settings at the same time that European societies were being gradually pacified. The popular and official narrative of the EU as a peaceful and benevolent project is based on the “colonial amnesia”, such as the fact that the Treaty of Rome was signed right in the middle of the Algerian War. If colonial histories of Europe as a project – rather than that of individual empires – are taken seriously, it becomes visible how violence is not an aberration to Europe but a prerequisite for European modernity. The volume takes these histories as a starting point for the epistemic enquiry.
As we theorise Europeanisation as violence, we remain painfully aware of the growing challenge to critique the project of Europeanisation itself. Increasing nationalist mobilisations across Europe and the co-optation of “postcolonial thinking” by right-wing parties limit the space for non-right-wing critique of Europeanisation. The limited engagement with racism and violence at the core of the European modernity in the dominant social scientific narratives offer little to challenge right-wing racist discourses mimicking themselves as “anti-colonial”. This makes the critique of Europeanisation as violence even more urgent, as academic critique should not leave the space to rapid right-wing responses.
We anticipate the volume to include 11-12 essays of up to 8,000 words each, including references (following Chicago Style, in-text citation: https://www.scribbr.com/chicago-style/author-date/).
We are seeking further contributions focusing on the following themes:
- the EU, border violence and humanitarian violence in the Mediterranean
- the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa
- the role of the EU in perpetuating Israeli occupation and apartheid
- EU-promoted development interventions in the East of Europe
Tentative timeline for the book project:
25 October 2021: Deadline for submission of abstracts by perspective authors.
30 November 2021: Contributors notified about selected abstracts
31 January 2021: Editors circulate introduction + submission of book proposal to publisher (Duke University Press or Manchester University Press – preliminary inquiries to the potential publishers will be submitted earlier in the autumn).
28 March 2022: submission of first chapter drafts
30 May 2022: Editors’ comments on first drafts
30 October 2022: Authors submit revised chapters
30 December 2022: Editors’ comments on revised chapters
31 February 2023: Authors submit second revisions
28 March 2023: Final checks and comments by editors
30 June 2023: Final copy-edited chapter draft (after 3rd round of revisions if needed) and submission of manuscript to publisher.
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Boatcă, M. (2020) Thinking Europe Otherwise: Lessons from the Caribbean. Current Sociology 69(3):389-414.
Dainotto, R. (2006) Europe (In Theory). Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Hansen, P. & Jonsson, S. (2014) Eurafrica: The Untold History of European Integration and Colonialism. London, NY: Bloomsbury.
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