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Crossing the Race Line: Brexit, Citizenship and “Immigrants” in the Referendum

Crossing the Race Line: Brexit, Citizenship and “Immigrants” in the Referendum

Moore Hall 3340

Crossing the Race Line: Brexit, Citizenship and “Immigrants” in the Referendum


Adrian Favell, University of Leeds

In June 2016, a very clear majority of English voters chose to unilaterally take the “United Kingdom” out of the European Union. According to many of the post-Brexit vote analyses, the single strongest motivating factor driving this vote was “immigration” in the UK, an issue which had long been the central mobilising force of the United Kingdom Independence Party. I will focus on how – following the bitter demise of “multiculturalism” –  these Brexit related developments may now signal the end of Britain’s post-war settlement on immigration and race, the other parts of a progressive philosophy which had long marked out a proud British distinction from its neighbours. In successfully racialising, lumping together and re-labelling as “immigrants” three anomalous non-“immigrant” groups – EU citizens, British Muslims, and asylum seekers – Farage made explicit an insidious colonial re-casting of ideas of “national integration”, emergent since the year 2000, that now even threatens the status of the most settled BAME populations (as has been seen in the Windrush scandal). Central to this has been the rejection of the post-national principle of non-discrimination by nationality, which had seen its fullest European expression in the UK during the 1990s and 2000s. The referendum on Brexit enabled an extraordinary “democratic” vote on the notion of “national” population and membership, in which “the people” might openly roll back the various diasporic, multi-national, cosmopolitan, or human rights-based conceptions of “global” society which had taken root during those decades. 


Bio:Adrian Favell is Chair in Sociology and Social Theory at the University of Leeds and Deputy Director of the Leeds Social Sciences Institute. He was Associate Professor and Professor in Sociology at UCLA 2001-2010. He is the author of various works on multiculturalism, migration, cosmopolitanism and cities, including Philosophies of Integration(1998), The Human Face of Global (with Michael Peter Smith, 2006), and Eurostars and Eurocities (2008). A collection of his essays, Immigration, Integration and Mobility, including more recent work on East-West migration and anti-EU politics in Britain, was published by ECPR Press (Jan 2015). Website:

23 May 19
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

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