Canada and the United States are touted as multicultural societies, both formally through multiculturalism policies and informally through cultural narratives and metaphors such as the 'melting pot.' Still, these policies, narratives and metaphors can actually mask persistent inequalities that immigrant populations must navigate through, even for populations that already appear well-equipped to adapt to the host culture.
This is the case for Filipina/os. In my Identities article, 'The centrality of neoliberalism in Filipina/o perceptions of multiculturalism in Canada and the United States', Filipina/o university students in Toronto and Los Angeles discuss their views regarding ethnic identity maintenance and inclusion in their respective environments. The results were a bit counter-intuitive.
Since Canada promotes formal multiculturalism through federally-funded events and support for community-building within various ethnic communities, one might expect Filipina/os in Toronto to have a greater sense of ethnic identity and sense of belonging in Toronto compared to their counterparts in California, mostly because of the absence of multiculturalism policies in the United States.
Instead, it appears Filipina/os in both contexts experience stigma in very similar ways because of their racial and ethnic differences. This inhibits a full sense of belonging. For many Filipina/os, these negative responses to their racial and ethnic differences negate any advantages they experience coming from a country already accustomed to Western values, ideas, cultures, education and institutions — a legacy of former colonisation in the Philippines by Spain and the United States.
While Filipina/os in Toronto were aware of multiculturalism policy in Canada, they remained baffled by the everyday experiences of prejudice and discrimination and the lack of attention to stigma against them. The Toronto interviewees tended to adopt a 'blame the victim' approach that is associated with neoliberalism. Essentially, Filipina/os should be able to overcome any hardship in their lives if they just work harder. The problem with the neoliberal strategy of destigmatisation is that it puts no focus on institutions and social contexts, such as experiences of racism, classism, sexism, etc., as explanations for why some groups could be having a harder time fitting into the mainstream than other groups.
The interviewees in California, by contrast, are more likely to emphasise the role of social institutions in the status hierarchy of Filipina/os in respect to the mainstream. Although the United States has no federally-funded policies for ethnic groups, there is a level of political activism, particularly in higher education, that has led to social change. The Third World Liberation Front and student-led strikes in the Bay Area during the 1960s worked in tandem with many people power movements of the time, which contributed to the creation of a College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University and other ethnic studies programmes throughout the nation. This enables a history and vocabulary for the California students to critique nation-state relations between the United States and the Philippines, rather than say that Filipina/os simply must work harder.
The findings caution against an overreliance on policies to address the past effects of discrimination. This is a story from the voices of Filipina/os that there needs to be a constant reminder of why those policies were there in the first place, particularly through critical discussions of race and ethnic relations that happen in universities. This is more likely to happen in California, but Toronto is beginning to address this need, too — even in the absence of a Civil Rights Movement comparable to the United States — as a number of scholars critique racial hierarchies and establish spaces for Filipina/os to heal, such as performing arts venues. These efforts demonstrate the enormous work needed to help people truly feel included in their very diverse societies.
Blog post by Vincent Laus, California State University, USA
Read the full article: Laus, Vincent. The centrality of neoliberalism in Filipina/o perceptions of multiculturalism in Canada and the United States. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1611071
Many Western expatriates are routinely exposed to being labelled laowai (老外 in Mandarin, literally ‘old foreigner’) in mainland China. According to a 2007 report in People’s Daily, Chinese users of the slang term laowai feel it shows their respect and intimacy for Westerners (‘Is 'Laowai' a Negative...' 2007). This Chinese interpretation was empirically verified by a 2015 research article (Mao 2015).
But some people on the receiving end feel that laowai is a stereotype-laden form of ‘othering’, defined as discourses that create a boundary between insiders and outsiders. Why are these interpretations so different? Why do Westerners feel resentful when they are addressed as laowai?
In order to address these questions, we focused on American expatriates living in mainland China, often regarded as prototypical ‘Westerners’ there. We conducted in-depth interviews with 35 American expatriates who ranged in age from 19 to 36 years, varied in sojourn length from six months to ten years, were in different occupations and of diverse racial categories (White/Chinese/Latino/African Americans). By inviting these Americans to reflect upon their intercultural experiences in mainland China, we explored their interpretation of the term laowai.
Our research, as discussed in the Identities article, 'Laowai as a discourse of Othering: unnoticed stereotyping of American expatriates in Mainland China', revealed that it was the ways that Chinese people employed laowai, instead of this label itself, that contributed to the discomfort of American expatriates.
First and foremost, our informants who were generally called laowai were those who did not look Chinese, so Chinese Americans and other Asian expatriates were not generally labelled in this way. Our interviewees who were called laowai felt this term conveyed a variety of negative ideas about Westerners.
For example, some said it assumed they were incapable of speaking Mandarin and understanding Chinese culture; as one interviewee put it, ‘You don’t understand it because you are laowai’. The term implied that Westerners are essentially different from the Chinese: ‘[They say]: “We Chinese people are physically not capable of drinking cold water; our DNA is different”’. Furthermore, interviewees told us Westerners were assumed to be morally corrupt and badly behaved, qualities one informant summed up thus: ‘[They think]: you must have five girlfriends, because laowai are very kaifang [sexually promiscuous]’.
From American expatriates’ perspective, these othering practices reflected Chinese users’ motivations, including constructing Chineseness as an identity based on bloodline descent, justifying their assumptions that the West and Westerners were essentially different from China and the Chinese, and attempting to maintain the superior and positive Chinese self by stigmatising Western others during intergroup encounters. Ultimately, these American expatriates experienced Chinese people’s habitual use of laowai as a way to separate them as permanent outsiders, a form of what some scholars have termed ‘Occidentalism’, involving non-Western individuals’ othering of the West in a reductive and misrepresentative way (Buruma & Margalit 2005).
Our research indicated that othering was deemed unacceptable by those subject to it, even when the specific term employed was seen as positive by users from the dominant group. We did not intend to make a value judgement on Chinese people’s habitual use of laowai, but hoped to arouse the attention of Chinese scholars, educators and institutions to the impact of othering of expatriates on the Chinese mainland, considering the increasing number of these migrants in this region.
Buruma, I. & A. Margalit. 2005. Occidentalism: the West in the eyes of its enemies. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
‘Is 'Laowai' a Negative Term?’ (2007). People's Daily Online, December 21 2007. Available at http://en.people.cn/90001/90780/91345/6325229.html.
Mao, Y. 2015. Who is a laowai? Chinese interpretations of laowai as a referring expression for non-Chinese. International Journal of Communication 9: 2119–2140.
Blog post by Yang Liu, Beijing Foreign Studies University, China; and Charles C. Self, University of Oklahoma, USA
Read the full article: Yang, Liu & Self, Charles C. Laowai as a discourse of Othering: unnoticed stereotyping of American expatriates in Mainland China. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1589158
When you see images of French daily life or French people in magazines, films, or other media, what do you see?
Usually, it’s white people, with perhaps a few visibly non-white people depicted. But this is odd for multiple reasons.
One, France has a long history of immigration, primarily from its overseas territories and former colonies. Due to years of colonialism, colonial slavery, and subsequent migration, ethnic minorities, or 'visible minorities' in French academic parlance, have long been part of French society.
Secondly, France does not acknowledge or measure race as a separate identity category. So while France is a multicultural society, it does not, as a facet of law, distinguish between these different cultures. One is either French or not. This is France’s Republican model.
Yet representations in popular culture or government reveal how this ideology does not quite play out this way as representations of Frenchness, whether it’d be French people, French identity, or French culture, are usually white, in terms of positions in government or images in French cinema and television.
In my Identities article, 'Are French people white?: Towards an understanding of whiteness in Republican France', I discuss how middle-class adult children of North African immigrants – individuals who were born in France and are descendants of France’s colonial empire in the Maghreb – navigate a French society that is supposedly colorblind where whiteness is the default.
How do they wrestle with definitions of French identity as white and full belonging in French society as centered on whiteness?
One way to understand this is as part of a racial project (Omi & Winant 1994) in which distinctions among individuals are marked without explicit categories.
David Theo Goldberg (2006) argues that our ideas of Europeans and European identity more generally are also based on whiteness as default. Just as French Republicanism denies the existence of race and racism, I argue that it simultaneously denies the existence of whiteness and white supremacy.
Part of France’s racial project is the continued production and reproduction of white as normal or default.
This is one reason why France is a fascinating place to examine white supremacy and everyday racism.
Goldberg, D. T. 2006. Racial Europeanization. Ethnic and Racial Studies 29: 331–364.
Omi, M. & H. Winant. 1994. Racial formation in the United States: from the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge.
Blog post by Jean Beaman, Purdue University, USA
Read the full article: Beaman, Jean. Are French people white?: Towards an understanding of whiteness in Republican France. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1543831
‘We know that they have sentiment [against] Chinese. The May 1998 fall is just ... an event that compounded whatever my mom ... whatever my parents say is really true.’ (Winarnita et al., 2018).
A recent interest in the growing Chinese-Indonesian diaspora has drawn attention to the powerful experiences of many women who were forced to leave Indonesia during the May 1998 riots. To avoid being raped, many Chinese-Indonesian families sent their daughters out of country to try and ensure their safety. Thousands of these women remain abroad, living as exiles in other countries.
Our research on Chinese-Indonesian women in Singapore and Australia, as discussed in the Identities article, 'Narratives of exile twenty years on: long-term impacts of Indonesia’s 1998 violence on transnational Chinese-Indonesian women', uncovered many stories of exile and suffering.
This was the case for Melbourne-based Teresia, now in her early thirties, whose experience of exile also made her delay marriage and childrearing. Teresia’s middle-class family had helped her flee Indonesia in early 1999 to be an international high school student in Australia, and she remained indebted to them, particularly as her parents’ business closed down.
After graduation, she enrolled in medical school, again with financial help from more affluent relatives and family friends. She framed her departure as partially due to education but mostly due to ‘fear for [her] safety’. 1998 was a ‘very tumultuous time’, which made her move necessary and ‘right’. Her family in Jakarta lived in fear and close proximity to the violence, as Teresia described: ‘It was all in front of us … the riot just went through in front of our real estate area’.
Two decades on, the conditions of her departure continued to impact her attitude towards marriage. Her medical career allowed her to sponsor the migration of her Indonesia-based family. Moving her family away permanently from racial tensions in Indonesia was more important than marriage and children, said Teresia.
For Singapore-based Michelle, the 1998 riots also ruptured her life history narrative; her family relocated from Jakarta to her father’s home on a rural island off of Java to protect Michelle from possible rape and assault. Her forced confinement as a teenager in her low-income family’s natal home led her to want to be an adventurous adult. She studied diligently and sought out opportunities for education and training, which led her to Jakarta and Taiwan before she got a serendipitous job offer in Singapore.
Nevertheless, the high mobility and instability in Michelle’s life that were set in motion in 1998 continued. Michelle and her Indonesian husband remain unsure if they will ever get permanent residency in Singapore. It also meant what Michelle calls a significant ‘sacrifice’ to delay childbirth well past the time she and her husband wanted to be having children together; this was due to their uncertain status with short-term work visas and delays in processing residency applications, along with lack of options around returning to Indonesia.
In-depth interviews conducted in 2016 with Chinese-Indonesian women currently living in Singapore and Australia uncovered the long-term effects on families of female members’ experiences of exile. In contrast to stereotypes of overseas Chinese-Indonesians as members of an affluent community, Chinese-Indonesian women’s experiences, as illustrated in Teresia’s and Michelle’s stories, are also that of exiles. Respondents describe how the events of 1998 restricted their choice of residence and possible return.
Moreover, the long-term effects of political violence include strained family ties, as well as difficulties in women’s marital, reproductive and childrearing practices. Interviewees described how they come to understand who they are and how to maintain family relations in their effort to overcome long-term difficulties in their lives.
Therefore, more discussion is needed towards understanding women’s specific political experiences of exile, and the long-term impacts of political violence on their family relations such as those of Chinese-Indonesian women and other women in exile.
Winarnita, M., C. Chan & L. Butt. (2018). Narratives of exile twenty years on: long-term impacts of Indonesia’s 1998 violence on transnational Chinese-Indonesian women. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1537639.
Blog post by Monika Winarnita, University of Victoria, Canada; Carol Chan; University of Victoria, Canada; and Leslie Butt, University of Victoria, Canada
Read the full article: Winarnita, Monika; Chan, Carol & Butt, Leslie. Narratives of exile twenty years on: long-term impacts of Indonesia’s 1998 violence on transnational Chinese-Indonesian women. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1537639
In times of rising nationalism, expressed through growing support for anti-migration and anti-globalisation political parties, the nation seems under question in its unifying thrust.
Historically, the nation has emerged in association with a given ‘people’, defined in terms of common myths, language and ethnicity (Smith 1986), who claims sole entitlement to a given territory (Gellner 1983). With the ongoing demographic transformation, spurred in great part by international migration, the question is whether and how the nation might change because its ‘people’ is changing.
In normative terms, civic, liberal and multicultural nationalism have tackled this issue, offering various ways of reconciling nation and diversity. Yet, the recent upsurge in the Western world of what can be called ‘white nationalism’, i.e. the (re)claiming of the nation as the privileged property of the white dominant group, openly challenges these normative projects.
In our Identities article, 'Ethno-cultural diversity and the limits of the inclusive nation', we explore specifically how nation and ethno-cultural and religious diversity are jointly mobilised in political discourses and policies in order to assess the possibilities and limits of the idea of an inclusive, plural nation.
We focus on the case of Italy, a country which since the 1980s has experienced a fast demographic change and which has remained till March 2017 a main destination of migratory flows from Sub-Saharian and Northern Africa.
Our content and discursive analysis of parliamentary debates and policies related to migration from 1986 until 2014, complemented with individual interviews with relevant civic officers and politicians, reveals a clear divide between an inclusive rhetoric and an exclusive legal framework.
By looking more closely at the Turco-Napolitano Law (1998), possibly the most progressive legislative attempt at incorporating migrants into the Italian nation, this divide is also clearly apparent.
On the one hand, the political left, which authored the Turco-Napolitano law, talked of remaking the Italian nation in civic terms, centred on citizenship’s universal rights.
On the other hand, the same political left decided to pass a law which framed immigration first and foremost as a security problem, thus casting an original doubt on the would-be ‘new Italians’, whose social status and moral standing would never be the same as the one of the Italians by descent.
The reasons for this short-circuit between rhetoric and legal provision are related to the international and domestic contexts. Internationally, Italy’s room for manoeuvring was and remains constrained by the EU legal framework, whose Schengen agreement prevents to make the national borders more permeable.
Domestically, as the political right successfully capitalizes on citizens’ fears towards migrants, the political left finds itself cornered and has to follow suit for electoral gains. In both cases, the end result is the reaffirmation of an ethno-cultural nation which makes conditional any national incorporation of migrants and their children.
As much as this is what happens at the national level, in our article we also suggest that in order to fully explore the possibilities for generating an inclusive nation is also important to look beyond the national scale (Jones and Fowler 2007). In other words, the possibilities for generating an inclusive nation should also be considered away from a centralised, normative discourse which aspires to evenly spread across the national space.
By adopting a multiscalar understanding of nation is for instance possible to attend to local initiatives where evidence of more inclusive and plural forms of nationhood has been highlighted (Rossetto 2015, Downing 2014).
This approach returns a more articulated and fragmented picture, but also a more realistic one which dispels the idea that a progressive, inclusive nation can homogenously apply across the national space.
Downing, J. 2014. Contesting and re-negotiating the national in French cities: examining policies of governance, Europeanisation and co-option in Marseille and Lyon. Fennia-International Journal of Geography 193: 185-197.
Gellner, E. 1983. Nations and nationalism. Oxford: Blackwell.
Jones, R. & C. Fowler. 2007. Placing and scaling the nation. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25: 332-354.
Rossetto, T. 2015. Performing the nation between us: urban photographic sets with young migrants. Fennia-International Journal of Geography 193: 165-184.
Smith, A. D. 1986. The ethnic origins of nations. Oxford: Blackwell.
Blog post by Marco Antonsich, Loughborough University, UK; and Enza Roberta Petrillo, University of Rome 'La Sapienza', Italy
Read the full article: Antonsich, Marco & Petrillo, Enza Roberta. Ethno-cultural diversity and the limits of the inclusive nation. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1494968
Whiteness, populism and the racialisation of the working class in the United Kingdom and the United States
In October 2016, as the US election loomed, Farage (2016) wrote in an opinion piece in The Telegraph, a symbol of his media prominence:
The similarities between the different sides in this election are very like our own recent battle. As the rich get richer and big companies dominate the global economy, voters all across the West are being left behind. The blue-collar workers in the valleys of South Wales angry with Chinese steel dumping voted Brexit in their droves. In the American rust belt, traditional manufacturing industries have declined, and it is to these people that Trump speaks very effectively….
This kind of statement was not limited to far-right politicians claiming political support from the working class, but has become common in much of the political commentary since.
To make sense of these developments, our Identities article, 'Whiteness, populism and the racialisation of the working class in the United Kingdom and the United States', examines the populist racialisation of the working class as white and ‘left behind’, and representative of the ‘people’ or ‘demos’, in the campaigns and commentaries.
We argue that such constructions made race central, obscured the class make-up, allowed for the re-assertion of white identity as a legitimate political category and legitimised, mainstreamed and normalised racism and the far right. Moreover, it delegitimised black, minority ethnic and immigrant experiences and interests, including working class ones.
We show that the construction of the votes as (white) working class revolts, and representing the 'people' and/or 'demos', is based on a partial reading of electoral data, misrepresents the votes, stigmatises the working class, and supports an ideological purpose which maintains the racial, political and economic status quo.
While much of the west has witnessed a resurgence of the far right since the end of the 2000s, 2016 marked a new step in the mainstreaming of reactionary and particularly racist, Islamophobic and xenophobic political movements, agendas and discourses (Mondon & Winter 2017).
Amongst others, the Brexit victory in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency in the United States have demonstrated that these movements, agendas and discourses can now win key electoral battles.
While much has already been written on these two cases and events, the aim of our article is to focus the discussion on the construction of the white working class to promote racist agendas, adding to a limited, but growing analysis (Bhambra 2017, Emejulu 2016, Lentin 2017, Mondon 2017, Nadeem et al. 2017, Saini 2017, Virdee & McGeever 2017, Winter 2017).
Our contribution is three-fold: first, to interrogate the construction of these votes, specifically as white working class revolts; second, demonstrate that the prevalent mainstream explanations about the rise of a (white) working class reaction is based on an ideological racialised construction of the working class and skewed reading of data in both cases that do not sustain even basic scrutiny; third, that such explanations and skewered data reproduce and even support a particular discourse and political agenda, legitimising Trump and Brexit, as well as racism and xenophobia, and delegitimising the working class, whether consciously or not.
To achieve so, our article examines this mainstreaming of racism, focusing on the transformation of the discourses and rhetoric about race and class. Particular attention is paid to the populist racialisation of the working class as white and indigenous in the Brexit and Trump campaigns. In doing so, our aim is not to explain the reasons behind the vote for Trump or Brexit, but rather to examine such explanations and how these reproduce or even support a particular discourse and political agenda.
To challenge the narrative constructing Brexit and Trump as working-class revolts, we use a two-pronged approach: first, we demonstrate that there is a long history of whitening the working class and ignoring its diversity, thus promoting an essentialist narrative based on white (male) experience. This leads us to conclude that, while racism is indeed present in the working class, its diverse nature should not be ignored and the racism present in upper classes should not be downplayed, particularly when the so-called revolt is led by the privileged (both in terms of race and wealth).
We then take a more electoral approach and demonstrate that the working-class revolts for both Trump and Brexit are in fact far less obvious than the coverage of both electoral contests would suggest. In fact, the working-class nature of these two votes is marginal and can be challenged, but is mostly ignored in elite discourse.
We argue that the white working class narrative as problematic in four ways. The first is that it racialises the working class as white and pits an elusive ‘white working class’ against racialised minorities and immigrants, who are denied working class status, in a competition for scarce, deregulated and casualised employment and ever dwindling resources in neo-liberal Britain and America.
Second, it constructs the ‘white working class’ as privileging their racial interests above class ones and as being racist, which results in the very stigma right-wing populist and libertarian advocates, who are themselves often part of the elites, falsely and opportunistically claim to oppose. Third, it normalises and mainstreams racism in both discourse and practice by portraying it as a popular demand, thus potentially fuelling hate crime.
Finally, in addition to not addressing the inequality faced by ‘white’ working class people, it exacerbates the inequality and vulnerability faced by racialised and migrant working class peoples and actually serves establishment political and economic interests.
The white working class revolt narrative mobilised by the populist far right and hyped by elite discourse (Glynos & Mondon 2016) has ignored not only elite driven racism (e.g. in politics, academia and the media), but also the more structural, institutional and systemic operation of racism in our societies. While those in positions of power (whether political or discursive) have often argued that they are merely responding to what ‘the people’ want, they have carefully ignored or downplayed the role they play as gate-keepers and shapers of public discourse and their proven influence as agenda-setters.
Therefore, rather than ‘the people’ suddenly reverting to racist attitudes, we argue that it is the widespread and widely publicised acceptance, based on skewed evidence, that ‘the people’ has turned racist, that perversely led to the legitimisation of a racism as it began to be discussed as a popular feeling, rather than a construction fuelled by elite discourse.
Bhambra, G. 2017. Brexit, Trump, and ‘Methodological Whiteness’: On the Misrecognition of Race and Class. British Journal of Sociology: Special Issue on the Trump/Brexit Moment: Causes and Consequences 68: S214–S232.
Emejulu, A. 2016. On the hideous whiteness of Brexit: 'Let us be honest about our past and our present if we truly seek to dismantle white supremacy'. Verso.
Glynos, J. & A. Mondon. 2016. The political logic of populist hype: the case of right wing populism’s ‘meteoric rise’ and its relation to the status quo. Populismus working paper series no. 4.
Mondon, A. 2017. Limiting democratic horizons to a nationalist reaction: populism, the radical right and the working class. Javnost/the public: Journal of the European Institute for Communication and Culture 24: 355-374.
Mondon, A. & A. Winter. 2017. Articulations of Islamophobia: from the extreme to the mainstream? Ethnic and Racial Studies Review 40: 2151-2179.
Nadeem, S., R. B. Horowitz, V. T. Chen, M. W. Hughley, J. Eastman & K. J. Cramer. 2017. Viewpoints: Whitewashing the Working Class. Contexts, June 23.
Virdee, S. & B. McGeever. 2017. Racism, crisis, Brexit. In: Ethnic and Racial Studies: Race and Crisis Special Issue, edited by VIRDEE and GUPTA, 1802-1819. 41/10.
Winter, A. 2017. Brexit and Trump: on Racism, the far right and violence. Institute for Policy Research (IPR) Blog, April 3.
Blog post by Aurelien Mondon, University of Bath, UK; and Aaron Winter, University of East London, UK
Read the full article: Mondon, Aurelien & Winter, Aaron. Whiteness, populism and the racialisation of the working class in the United Kingdom and the United States. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1552440
If national security is in danger, the state can declare a state of emergency. This step will suspend normal legal procedures that allow the authorities to regain order and control.
What if politicians allege that the culture and identity of migrants and refugees are threatening the cultural cohesion and economic welfare of the nation-state? What if political leaders declare a national security emergency in order to get political support and funding for a wall?
In my Identities article, 'Denmark’s blond vision and the fractal logics of a nation in danger', I show a new way to understand neo-nationalism, which is the kind that occurs within established nation-states, through the notion of a ‘nation in danger’, in relation to racialisation. The notion of the nation in danger is a specific logic that motivates a large ‘white’ majority of Danes in their perception and treatment of migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and Danes of colour. It also separates for them who belongs to Denmark and who does not on the basis of racial, cultural and ethnic features.
The problem with this dominant way of thinking is not the desire for self-determination itself, but the illusion that you can only be at home, and can only be understood, among people like yourself. This belief has now become predatory, a state of alertness that informs popular thinking and the rationale behind the competition among political parties and influencers.
Accordingly, eating pork; clothing; jewelry; language skills; physical presence; the right to speak; number of children; choice of public schools; freedom of religion; where to live and what to watch on television are some of the targets for regulation. The rhetoric points primarily to Muslim ways of living, but the net is cast widely for so-called non-Westerners regardless of whether they are newcomers or were born in Denmark with broader immigrant histories.
Such competition has revealed tensions between legal and moral demands. By making claims that would be unconstitutional if tested in court, parties dominate the conflict-prone news media coverage and contribute to further neo-nationalist, racialised recruitment of voters.
In 2006, my team researched the coverage of Islam peaking with the Danish Muhammad Cartoon affair in the Danish newspaper Jylland’s Posten. The conclusion was startling. In contrast with the era before political communication became an industry and commercial revenue shifted from newspapers to the internet, the public sphere was now no longer used for dialogue but had become a space for battle and confrontation.
Spinning news is a weapon in a terrain where enemies are known and attacked. With the friend-foe philosophy of neo-conservative fathers Leo Strauss and Carl Schmitt, there is no limit to how far the uncompromising stance can go and how radical the language can become, since confrontation is sought and is, ultimately, the responsible way to do ‘the political’. The aim of such politics is the containment of the opponent at any price. This friend-foe scheme now forms the backbone of common-sense reasoning among the majority of the Danish voters. Accordingly, politicians go out of their way to please these voters because their political lives depend on them.
The Danish Minister’s ‘restrictive identity policies’ on the official website is a neo-nationalist celebration of who belongs and who does not by creating separate rules, routines, and language for the two groups. The political demand for restrictive identity policies can never be fully satisfied, but the Danish People’s Party has insisted on them in political negotiations since 2001; the ruling government and opposition have adopted the measures.
Today, we can speak about an extreme right that has become mainstream, hence mainstream extremism or hegemonic majority that I contend is guided by the nation in danger logic. Politicians and most of the news media are nourishing the majority view. However, calls for a state of emergency do not apply to this majority or those who reach for arms and threats of violence. They are protected by free speech absolutists and the police. The enemy is still ‘Islamists’, who are seen as foreigners and approached as individual and collective life-threating foes.
Blog post by Peter Hervik, Aalborg University, Denmark
Read the full article: Hervik, Peter. Denmark’s blond vision and the fractal logics of a nation in danger. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1587905
It was an improbable scene: I was using the photocopiers at the National Library in downtown Singapore, and a smartly dressed young man from Bangladesh walked in with a coffee table book featuring the city. We talked; he needed help to get a colour copy of a shot of the Singapore skyline. He wanted to send the picture back to his family, to tell them with pride he was here and helped build this great city.
It was improbable for him, a foreign worker, to be in the privileged space of the National Library and for I, a privileged citizen, to be chatting about life with him. But there it was.
After all, Singapore is a multiracial nation. The Chinese make up three-quarters of the population, with Malays and Indians making the rest. Singapore is also a cosmopolitan global city. Citizens make up three-fifths of the population. A vibrant mix of migrants and resident workers from around the world – all highly skilled – leavens the economy of advanced manufacturing and services. They make the city more than multicultural: Singapore is super-diverse.
But, as I discuss in my Identities article, ‘Super-diversity and the bio-politics of migrant worker exclusion in Singapore’, there is another face to super-diversity.
The large majority of the remaining two-fifths of Singapore’s population are guest workers, most of them low-wage male workers from South Asia and female domestic workers from Southeast Asia. Over the years, the male foreign workers who build and clean the city have been pushed out from public housing estates where four-fifths of Singaporeans live. They are increasingly pushed into large dormitories situated in industrial areas and the margins of the city.
Space crunch in land-scarce Singapore meant that there were occasions foreign workers were temporarily housed near residential estates. This has provoked controversies, the most vivid of which involved the sitting of dormitories in disused public buildings such as old schools, close to upper middle-class landed estates. Amid worries that the presence of foreign workers in their neighbourhoods would affect property values and that the workers would fraternise with their female domestic workers, this conservative class of citizens rose in protest: ‘Not in my backyard!’
Unable to move the workers, the authorities responded to the tensions by building fences and organising citizen patrols to keep the foreign workers away from the estates as much as possible. Rules included the prohibition of wearing sarongs outside the dormitory, urinating in public, littering and being too noisy. Offenders were fined around a tenth of their salary.
Beyond the middle-class landed estates, large groups of foreign workers occupying town centres, and the common spaces of public housing estates in the evenings and Little India during the weekends, drew complaints from citizens. The government built regional recreational centres filled with eating places, grocery shops and sports facilities near dormitory clusters to try to draw the workers away from town centres.
The Little India riot in December 2013 catalysed the growing exclusion of foreign workers from the global city. Upset after an intoxicated worker was knocked down and killed by a bus that took the workers back to their dormitories, a few hundred workers attacked police and rescue personnel, and set emergency vehicles ablaze. The authorities became keenly aware of the danger of over a hundred thousand foreign workers packed into the downtown heritage precinct of Little India every weekend.
The authorities accelerated the building of mega-dormitories in outlying peri-urban areas with the capacity to house tens of thousands of foreign workers. They were to be well provided for. Mass kitchens, recreational facilities and shops catering to the needs of the resting workers meant they did not have to travel the long distance to Little India. More regional recreational centres were built, for those who still felt the need to travel out.
Indeed, defining and meeting needs became the key to exclude the foreign workers from the city and its super-diversity.
Blog post by Daniel P.S. Goh, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Read the full article: Goh, Daniel P.S. Super-diversity and the bio-politics of migrant worker exclusion in Singapore. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1530899