Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies

New Racisms: Forms of Un/Belonging in Britain Today

Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies in partnership with DEMOS presents a day conference:

New Racisms: Forms of Un/Belonging in Britain Today


Les Back, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Melanie Friend: photographer, University of Sussex
Prof. Mary Hickman, St Mary's University, London
Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future
Refugee Action
The Refugee Council


The publication of the Parekh Report on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain (Runnymede Trust 2000) sparked intense debate in Britain. In response to the report’s suggestion that Britishness carries ‘systematic, largely unspoken, racial connotations’, much of the ensuing debate focused on the extent to which Britain is an inherently multicultural and even hybrid nation. Britain was re-cast as being a ‘nation of immigrants’, where cultural diversity strengthens and enriches the nation (Fortier 2005).  Hall has described this as ‘multicultural drift’ (Back and Hall 2009), a sense that British society has irreversibly and incrementally moved away from its stable and mono-cultural foundations; and yet there remain deep and irreconcilable ambiguities towards some cultural differences and minority groups. New ‘hierarchies of belonging’ have emerged in which minority communities are positioned differently and afforded greater or lesser degrees of tolerance and inclusion (Back, Sinha and Bryan 2012). For example, new migrants can be depicted as ‘benefit tourists’, asylum seekers as a threat to national security, and even long settled Muslim communities are increasingly subject to scrutiny and suspicion as potential terrorists and a threat to British way of life. This conference seeks to explore these processes of ordering, and to attend to debates around inclusion/exclusion, belonging / unbelonging, equality/inequality, power/resistance.  To what extent are the new forms of globalised migration different from the colonial and post-colonial migration of the past, and how is this giving rise to racisms which are different from the past?

Since 2004 acquiring British citizenship has been tied to compulsory integration measures: migrants must demonstrate their English language skills and knowledge of British cultural values. This represents a re-framing of integration away from the rights-based conceptualisation of the 1990’s, where the focus was on legal equality, security of residence and social and political participation, to an identity issue with migrants having to prove their willingness to commit  to the ‘common values’ and cultural traits of the host country. In these debates there is assumed to be a set of dominant and clearly defined British values (as articulated in the Life in the UK citizenship test). These are set in opposition to migrant values which are left unexplored, but generally depicted as of concern. But how is this expectation to adopt a British identity, and espouse British values, viewed and experienced from the perspective of the migrants themselves, and how is cultural hybridity, or conflict, managed or avoided?

‘Super-diversity’ and the ‘diversification of diversity’ brought about by migration (Vertovec  2007), has resulted in the multiplication and increasingly complex axis of identification and difference. This is not just about the addition of further variables of difference; it is also about ‘new conjunctions of interactions of variables’ (Vertovec 2007:1025). Complex migration and asylum regimes further contribute to diversification by giving rise to multiple legal statuses and varying states of precariousness to more groups of people for longer (Zetter 2007). Identities are more complex and fluid reflecting shifting allegiances and interests, and giving rise to new issues and challenges. This has led some commentators to call into question the relevance of ethnic categories and to argue that they no longer have analytical purchase in the dynamism of today’s urban multiculture.  Instead, it is argued that super-diversity brings the need for a new politics of identity which transcends static ethnic categories (Fanshawe and Sriskandarajah 2010).

We welcome papers on the following topics:

  • Immigration, migration and the media
  • New forms of racism, new figurations of ‘race’
  • Emergent ethnicities and belonging
  • The rise of political parties and re/sentiments such as UKIP
  • Re-examinations of cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism/diversity
  • Stereotypes, visual images, and narratives of asylum, migration and refuge
  • Cultural formations and religious formations that deploy ‘race’
  • Complex political victims
  • The affects of racism

Papers should be no longer than 15- 20 minutes; please send 250 word proposals to by 31 March 2014.
Proposals may be in Word, PDF, or RTF formats with the following information in this order:

• author(s)
• affiliation
• email address
• title of abstract
• body of abstract

We welcome creative pieces, to discuss please contact Conference Directors and
For any other queries about the conference please contact conference organisers: We look forward to welcoming you to Brighton in May!

This conference is supported by Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies, and the AHRC Cultural Values Project: Cultural Values from the Subaltern Perspective: A Phenomenology of Refugees' Experience of British Cultural Values.

This conference is being organised in conjunction with a Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies event in honour and memory of Stuart Hall, which will include a screening of John Akomfrah's film 'The Stuart Hall Project', and a panel discussion

Stuart Hall's work, with Dr Nirmal Puwar (Goldsmiths) and Professor Avtar Brah (Birkbeck). This will take place from 2-5.30pm on Thursday 8 May, and will be followed by a drinks reception