(Un)Making Europe: How to make sense of the contemporary ‘politics of resentment’?
My paper will discuss the (un)making of Europe in the context of contemporary issues over difference in Europe. It will rethink the relationship between diasporas, cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism in order to make sense of identity, difference, conflict, crisis and resistance in contemporary Europe, including the ‘politics of resentment’ which governs the European social and political sphere.
There is currently a growing opposition to both multiculturalism and to cosmopolitan ideals in Europe. The backlash against multiculturalism is accompanied by an anti-immigration and nationalist sentiment, challenging cosmopolitan values. The ‘threat’ from one is conflated with the other, presented as a menace poised against, and ready to puncture, European identity, culture, civilization and values.
However, rather than seen as bedfellows, cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism have come to be constructed as adversaries. Many social commentators and scholars appeal to cosmopolitanism’s Enlightenment origins, taking Kant’s theories on cosmopolitanism as a basis. Cosmopolitanism is what the desirable Europeans did and aspired to; the ‘undesirable’ ‘parochial’ ethno-religious communities of Europe, on the other hand, did something we did not like very much: they did multiculturalism. What is interesting is that this backlash against multiculturalism did not only come from the usual suspects. Sociologists, for example, Beck (2011: 54), Delanty (2011: 650), and Glick-Schiller et al (2011: 401) have also been critical of multiculturalism, or used multiculturalism as a foil when defending cosmopolitanism (See Demir 2016 for a criticism of this). This juxtaposition of cosmopolitanism against multiculturalism is all the more perplexing given that both cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism question the upper hand that the hegemonic national subjects hold, and attempt to increase the participation of all, including minoritized groups, as equal civic and political citizens within and across nation-states. Debates on Brexit and immigration have tapped into this existing dislike of multiculturalism (and the associated loss of privilege). This is borne out with numbers we have on Brexit which show that multiculturalism tops the list of social ills for Brexiters (81%) over and above immigration (80%) – even if slightly. In my paper I will explore such issues, including the extent to which resistance to both cosmopolitan values and multiculturalism we see in Europe today can be seen as a deep yearning for an old Europe where people knew their place, especially the immigrants, or non-whites or those from the colonies. I will attempt to uncover how without a proper understanding of the backlash against multiculturalism and racial diversity in Europe, we cannot make sense of contemporary Europe, including its making and unmaking.
Ipek Demir (PhD, Sussex) is an Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Leicester, UK. She was previously an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge. Demir’s work sits at the intersections of the fields of diaspora studies, ethno-politics, race and identity, nationalism, indigeneity, global politics as well as social and critical thought. She has carried out empirical research on Kurdish and Turkish diasporas, funded by the AHRC. Her latest article is entitled: 'Shedding an Ethnic Identity in Diaspora: De-Turkification and the Transnational Discursive Struggles of the Kurdish Diaspora', published in Critical Discourse Studies (Feb 2017). She is the founder and co-coordinator of BSA’s Diaspora, Migration and Transnationalism Study Group and the former Vice-Chair of ESA’s Sociology of Migration Research Network.