March 4, 2024

Inexperienced European Journal: In your guide Eurowhiteness, you talk about Europe’s civilizational flip. What do you imply by that? When did it start, and when did it grow to be obvious? 

Hans Kundnani: It isn’t fully clear when it started. It could not even be obvious now, a minimum of to lots of people. I began desirous about the civilizational flip round 2020 and 2021. However on reflection, the essential juncture was the refugee disaster in 2015. Within the twenty years between the top of the Chilly Battle and 2010, the EU had been in expansive, offensive mode. It was optimistic and outward-looking, and imagined a world that might virtually be remade in its personal picture. The phrase that captures this finest is the title of a guide by Mark Leonard of the European Council on Overseas Relations, Why Europe Will Run the twenty first Century. This hubristic, optimistic interval got here to an finish with the eurozone disaster, the Arab Spring in 2011, after which the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Europe begins to see itself as being on the defensive. 

So the change is already there within the first half of the 2010s, however then with the refugee disaster in 2015, this defensiveness takes on a distinct form. Not solely does the EU see itself as being surrounded by threats however, after 2015, it additionally perceives these threats in civilizational phrases. 

That’s the civilizational flip, when threats are now not seen in an ideological method or in a geopolitical or realist method, however within the context of a Huntingtonian ‘conflict of civilizations’, as threats towards a European civilization that should be protected. 

Your guide argues that what underlies this flip is ‘Eurowhiteness’. What’s Eurowhiteness and the place does the time period come from? 

I borrow this time period from József Böröcz, an American sociologist. He makes use of the phrase in a really explicit strategy to talk about the interior hierarchy inside what he calls the ‘construction of whiteness’. He differentiates, roughly, Western Europeans from Central and Jap Europeans and Southern Europeans, who’ve an aspirational want to grow to be absolutely white. I take advantage of it in a barely completely different method. I distinguish between ethnic/cultural variations of European identification on the one hand, and civic variations on the opposite. This attracts on theories of nationalism, which distinguish between ethnic/cultural nationalism and civic nationalism, and applies it to learn what I name ‘regionalism’, in different phrases, to Europe. 

For me, Eurowhiteness is an ethnic/cultural thought of Europe. My argument is that there are each ethnic/cultural and civic currents of concepts of Europe going again to the Enlightenment a minimum of. Particularly, I discuss Eurowhiteness to recommend that Europe and whiteness have one thing to do with one another, which is kind of apparent when you consider it, although it’s not one thing folks wish to discuss. The concept of a post-war European identification, centred on the EU, is one which loads of pro-Europeans wish to imagine has nothing to do with whiteness. However I argue that the ethnic/cultural model of European identification continued after World Battle II, and influenced and knowledgeable European integration itself. 

Rescue mission within the Mediterranean Sea, picture by way of Flickr.

So the EU’s civilizational flip may need grow to be extra evident in the previous couple of years, nevertheless it has not changed or outmoded extra civic understandings of Europe. It’s been current all through.  

Ethnic/cultural concepts of Europe return to the medieval interval, when Europe was synonymous with Christendom, and what it meant to be European was principally synonymous with being Christian. Within the fashionable interval, beginning with the Enlightenment, there was the start of a civic thought of what Europe is. From then on, each the ethnic/cultural and the civic currents are current and work together in some very advanced methods. Within the post-World Battle II interval, pro-Europeans prefer to suppose that the ethnic/cultural aspect of European identification went away, and it in all probability did lose some salience. However what’s stunning is that it’s now having a resurgence. 

Wherein of as we speak’s EU insurance policies do you see the civilizational flip? 

It’s most seen in migration coverage. Since 2015, Europe has in impact been constructing a wall within the Mediterranean. In different phrases, it’s not that completely different from the coverage that Trump pursued whereas he was US president, besides that, as an alternative of a land border with Mexico, it’s a sea border with North Africa. Human Rights Watch says that EU migration coverage will be summarised in three phrases: ‘Allow them to die.’ Since 2014, 28,000 folks have died within the Mediterranean. Greater than 2000 up to now in 2023. The Mediterranean is the deadliest border on the planet. 

Since Ursula von der Leyen grew to become European Fee president in 2019, there’s been a European Commissioner for ‘selling our European lifestyle’. It was initially for ‘defending our European lifestyle’. There was a silly argument within the European Parliament about that verb, however the true downside is just not the verb however the phrase ‘our European lifestyle’. The job of the Commissioner for Selling our European Method of Life is, a minimum of partly, to maintain migrants out. It makes it very express that migration isn’t just a troublesome coverage downside to handle however a risk to the European lifestyle. 

This language of civilization can be creeping into European international coverage. The far proper tends to bang on concerning the risk to European civilization from migration, however the centre proper more and more makes use of the identical language to debate European international coverage. In all of the debates about European sovereignty, strategic autonomy, and a geopolitical Europe, there’s this actual sense that Europe must defend itself from threats perceived in civilizational phrases. The important thing determine right here is France’s President Emmanuel Macron. Macron is a politician who first began on the centre left in Hollande’s authorities and now’s a centre-right or radical-centrist politician who explicitly talks about defending European civilization. My worry is that the far proper and the centrists are more and more pondering in the identical method. 

Do you suppose that the associations between the thought of Europe and the European undertaking and whiteness stop ethnic minorities from figuring out with EU politics? 

I’m unsure, and a giant a part of what the guide is making an attempt to do is simply to place a few of these points on the desk. For the UK, which is the nation that I do know finest, the image is pretty clear empirically. Anecdotally, but additionally primarily based on educational analysis and knowledge, it’s clear that non-white Brits determine with Europe even lower than white Brits do. 

My father was Indian and my mom is Dutch. However, even in my case, I discover it tougher to determine as European than I feel loads of white Brits do. After I was working for a European suppose tank, a few of my colleagues would say, ‘I’m a proud European,’ or, ‘I’m 100 per cent European.’ And that’s high-quality, however I couldn’t try this. In any case, I’m additionally half Asian, proper? Equally, for those who’re black, you’re going to say, ‘Properly, I’m half African, proper? I can’t be utterly European.’ 

Now, what does that imply in apply? If you happen to’re a non-white particular person rising up in France, are you much less more likely to determine with a European undertaking than with France? Intuitively, I’d in all probability say sure. However I don’t know the reply to that, and one of many causes that we are able to’t say for certain is that, so far as continental Europe goes, there’s such a scarcity of information. 

Many European international locations do not need any knowledge on race or ethnic minorities. France doesn’t recognise the thought of race formally. Germany even wished to take away the point out of race from the structure, despite the fact that it was a clause defending folks from racial discrimination. Why are so many European international locations so uncomfortable with the thought of race? 

Various things are occurring right here. In easy phrases, the rationale France opposes it has to do with its Republican custom of laïcité. Within the case of Germany, although that is clearly a bit reductive, as a result of it associates these forms of ethnic classes with Nazism. However in each circumstances, the historical past of their political tradition signifies that they’ve an in-built resistance to amassing knowledge on race and due to this fact racial discrimination. That will be the extra charitable clarification. The extra cynical clarification is that they wish to deny that racism is an issue. It’s simpler to disclaim that racism is an issue if no knowledge is pointing to drawback. 

Discussions of race inevitably lead again to colonialism. Within the quick a long time after World Battle II, the founding members of the EU had been all white European empires who banded collectively as they had been dropping their colonies. Why is the post-imperial a part of the EU’s origin story typically forgotten? 

Once more, there may be an empathetic reply and a extra cynical one. Let me begin with the cynical reply. The EU has mythologised itself partly as a acutely aware technique of what I name ‘region-building’, which is analogous to nation-building within the nineteenth century. The parable tends to be a comforting, constructive story about your historical past that ignores a number of the realities. After the colonial histories of France or the Netherlands had come to an finish, they consigned it to a ‘reminiscence gap’, as historian Tony Judt places it.1 They type of moved on and tried to overlook a painful, troublesome historical past of humiliation. Colonialism was one thing that they simply wished to maneuver on from. 

However I’ve a barely completely different and fewer cynical interpretation of why it will get forgotten. From the Nineteen Sixties onwards, the Holocaust began to grow to be a central collective reminiscence inside the EU and for pro-Europeans. Tony Judt writes that Holocaust recognition is ‘our modern European entry ticket’. The disconnect between the reminiscence of the Holocaust and the forgetting of colonialism is putting, and I’d argue that there’s a structural dimension to that disconnect. 

The Holocaust and the Second World Battle match very neatly into the present narrative of the EU as a peace undertaking. It is a story that pro-Europeans inform about what the EU has executed, from the Schuman plan to overcoming the centuries of battle between France and Germany that culminated in World Battle II. What that story does is to encourage Europeans to consider their histories virtually completely in relation to one another. It’s the historical past of Europe as an inner story of how European international locations interacted with one another wherein the remainder of the world is totally forgotten. The exterior classes of European historical past, what Europeans did to the remainder of the world, but additionally conversely the affect that the remainder of the world had on Europe, specifically Africa and the Center East, are erased. 

Occupied with European historical past as a closed system brings Europeans collectively. It permits them to think about themselves as a ‘neighborhood of destiny’. However if you begin to usher in the historical past of European colonialism, it has virtually the other impact. It begins to drag Europeans aside. For instance, France has to consider its historical past in Algeria, West and Central Africa, and Indochina [today’s Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam]. If you happen to begin to think about your historical past as being a part of a distinct neighborhood of destiny, that of your former colonies, you have got a duty to them. In the identical method that pro-Europeans wish to suppose that Germans have a duty to France, participating with the historical past of colonialism encourages Europeans to suppose by way of various communities of destiny. The danger, from a pro-European viewpoint, is that these histories are a centrifugal drive. 

The historical past is much more sophisticated for those who think about Central and Jap Europe or different international locations similar to Eire, for that matter. 

At a stretch, you may take into consideration a collective Western European undertaking of reparations. You can think about, in idea a minimum of, a collective European undertaking of reparations between Western European international locations similar to France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and others. In any case, we have a tendency to think about European colonialism as a aggressive undertaking between completely different European nations, nevertheless it was additionally cooperative in some ways. The issue is that Central and Jap Europeans have a look at their historical past in a very completely different method. They see themselves as victims, definitely of imperialism, some would even declare colonialism. So even for those who might get Western European international locations to agree, and I feel we’re a great distance from that, Central and Jap European international locations have a look at this in such a distinct method that I feel it’s arduous to think about the EU, as an entire, endeavor any type of undertaking of reparations. 

Is there a hyperlink between Eurowhiteness and Europe’s democratic deficit? 

What the EU does, roughly, is depoliticization. It takes coverage, specifically financial coverage, out of the house of democratic contestation. On the outset, that was the genius of the European undertaking, as a result of depoliticising coal and metal coverage made warfare between France and Germany materially unattainable, as Robert Schuman stated. Because the undertaking went additional, nevertheless, depoliticization began to grow to be an issue from a democratic perspective. Financial coverage should be the centre of democratic contestation, nevertheless it was faraway from that house – and for those who take financial coverage out, what do you have got left aside from tradition? 

Within the ebb and move between a civic thought of Europe and an ethnic/cultural thought, the civic thought dominated within the lengthy interval between the lack of European colonies within the Nineteen Sixties and the start of the eurozone disaster in 2010. This civic thought was centred on the social market financial system and the depoliticised mode of governance that European integration produced. For the reason that monetary disaster, nevertheless, that mannequin of the social market financial system and the welfare state has been hollowed out by neoliberalism. In the meantime, there was a backlash towards the EU’s depoliticised mode of governance, which first grew to become obvious within the referendums over the Maastricht Treaty and later the Constitutional Conference. 

The result’s that regularly over the previous couple of a long time, it’s grow to be more and more troublesome to say that Europe stands for the social market financial system, the welfare state, and depoliticised governance. That’s the second when pro-Europeans started to succeed in for a cultural definition of what Europe is. The European lifestyle now not refers back to the social market financial system or its mode of governance; now it’s about defending European residents from Islam or Islamism. 

Do you suppose that the response to the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has additionally been responded to in civilizational phrases? 

I feel it’s pretty clear that the warfare has been framed in fairly a civilizational method. The distinction between how Ukrainian refugees and refugees from different components of the world are handled could be very putting. At the start of the warfare, von der Leyen stated, ‘Ukraine belongs to us.’ That language would by no means be used about Algeria, Morocco, or Syria. I additionally suppose that Russia is being constructed as a civilizational ‘different’ towards which Europe defines itself, and there’s a protracted historical past to that concept. 

There are different methods to have a look at the warfare although: in a realist method and even an ideological, neoconservative method – that’s, as a part of a worldwide battle between democracy and authoritarianism. Purist neoconservatives genuinely imagine that each nation on the planet might grow to be a democracy. It’s what led to their recklessness in Iraq. You may disagree with them, however it’s nonetheless not a civilizational framing. 

Is it doable to separate supporting, say, European sovereignty from exclusionary discourses? Are you able to not assist European strategic autonomy and possibly even a European military with out slipping into defending racist border insurance policies? 

It completely is feasible, which is why I’m making these arguments. I’m sceptical of concepts of European sovereignty and a geopolitical Europe, however for different causes. What I’m making an attempt to do is to get these pro-Europeans who do imagine in these items to be extra cautious about how they discuss it. 

There are a minimum of two alternative routes of desirous about a geopolitical Europe, and there could also be others too. The primary could be very realist. In a world of nice energy competitors, Europe additionally must be a continental nice energy alongside China, the USA, Russia, and so forth. It could be arduous for pro-Europeans to suppose in that method as a result of it requires them to desert the excessive ethical floor, the pro-European ethical superiority because it had been. However there may be nothing unsuitable with that realist framing. 

There may be additionally an ideological framing freed from ethnic, non secular, or civilizational connotations. That is an argument concerning the world battle between authoritarianism and democracy, which hawkish folks within the UK and US take into consideration. I don’t agree with that studying, however a minimum of the civilizational aspect is absent. A strong Europe with a coherent, efficient European international coverage doesn’t should be a terrific civilization. 

There was an effort in inexperienced politics in recent times to consider place, territory, and even rootedness whereas avoiding the ‘blood and soil’ risks of such discourse. You could find it in Latour’s writing a few new political spectrum or the efforts of the German Greens to redefine the notion of Heimat. Are you able to try this with out falling into the racist or civilizational mind-set concerning the world? 

I respect that you simply acknowledge this hazard in inexperienced politics as a result of lots of people don’t. For instance, right-wing ecology in Germany goes again to the Romantic motion within the nineteenth century and was current within the early section of the German Greens. 

However the query that I’ve been asking myself in the previous couple of years is: because the local weather disaster will get extra acute and local weather change strikes up the political agenda, will it overcome the fault strains in our politics – in different phrases, will a brand new consensus emerge – or will it in some way deepen these fault strains? To this point a minimum of, local weather change appears to be getting sucked into our tradition wars. 

You’re speaking about roots in connection to soil, to the local weather and the setting. I’m fairly sceptical concerning the thought of roots basically and my pondering right here comes from debates about race. [Cultural studies scholars] Stuart Corridor and Paul Gilroy would say that we have to speak much less about ‘roots’ and extra about ‘routes’. In different phrases, it’s not about making an attempt to return to one thing or someplace. It’s about humanity, and your self as a person, being on a journey. I like that concept.