Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies

Post/colonial Encounters?

Colonial and Contemporary Expatriates in Comparative Perspective
University of Sussex, September 27th and 28th, 2007

In recent years, the inter-disciplinary fields of colonial and postcolonial studies have been enriched by nuanced analyses of the ways in which racialised colonial identities (cross-cut by gender, class and sexuality) have been enacted in particular settings. Nevertheless, Ann Stoler (2002) has noted that colonial historians seem reluctant to attempt comparative analyses, instead engaging in what she terms 'parallel play'. Furthermore, the quantity and quality of knowledge about the lives of European colonials and settlers can be held in stark contrast with the relative scarcity of studies of those who might be regarded as their modern-day equivalents: contemporary expatriates. The term 'expatriate' is widely contested, but we use it here to draw attention to the relatively specific experiences of citizens of 'Western' nation-states who are involved in temporary migration processes to destinations inside and outside 'the West'. Their destinations are postcolonial in a variety of ways, but contemporary expatriates are rarely, at least explicitly, considered through a postcolonial framework. The apparent similarities and structural continuities between colonial and contemporary expatriates are often striking to casual observers, but they have not been systematically analysed within academic literatures.

Some of the questions arising include: To what extent do the experiences and identities of contemporary expatriates display continuities with those of colonial expatriates and settlers? How are expatriates in postcolonial encounters re-working colonial discourses and practices? In what ways do colonial imaginations inform contemporary migration?

Papers will provide starting points for a dialogue across disciplines on these matters. Issues addressed include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Career, work and business practices
  • Relocation motivations (e.g. discourses of development and diplomacy)
  • Citizenship and belonging (e.g. education, religion, nationalism)
  • Social networks, intimacy, community organizations (e.g. 'Hash House Harriers')
  • Relationships with nationals and other migrant groups
  • The management of space and domesticity (e.g. housing, material culture)
  • Gender identities and sexuality
  • The reproduction of the European body (e.g. food, clothing)
  • Medical and psychological conditions (e.g. 'Culture Shock')


Meike Fechter A.Fechter@sussex.ac.uk Dept. of Anthropology, University of Sussex

Katie Walsh Katie.Walsh@sussex.ac.uk Dept. of Geography, University of Sussex

The workshop was supported by the British Academy, the Centre for the Study of Colonial and Post-Colonial Culture and the Sussex Centre for Migration Research, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.


Post/colonial Encounters? Workshop programme [PDF 65.81KB]