Dr JAMES TRAFFORD GUEST SPACE TALK: BRITAIN AS WHITE POSSESSION
Britain as White Possession
In this talk, I want to think about property, whiteness, and discourses of “white threat”. This will start by unpacking the universally racist sentiment: “why can’t you just be grateful”, often coupled with the analogous epithet “if it’s so bad here you should go home”. These claims are implicit in the more widely accepted idea that the needs of working people legitimate greater controls over labour flows and the so-called “ethnic stability” of communities. How did Britain’s imperial wealth and resources become “home”? How did “home” become a domain requiring protection? Who is Britain home for? And how does this relate to ideas of Britain, the working class, or whiteness itself under threat?
Thinking through these questions I’ll discuss how across empire, British property was produced through violence, genocide, and theft that relied on protection against those stolen from. As formal empire was transformed into commonwealth and neo-imperial domination, Britain continued to draw on imperial logics and tactics against people drawn from prior colonies. I’ll discuss how these worked through housing policies, working conditions, anti-black and state violence, policing, and wealth. Making Britain “white” has relied on continuing colonial logics of possession and the protection of property rights – maintaining the nation and its wealth as a white possession even in the presence of its racialised other.
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To find out more about Dr Trafford’s work, please check out his new book: The Empire at Home: Internal Colonies and the End of Britain
|The Empire at Home – Pluto Press
Modern Britain is forged through the redeployment of structures that facilitated and legitimised slavery, exploitation and extermination. This is the ’empire at home’ and it is inseparable from the strategies of neo-colonial extraction and oppression of subjects abroad.
Modern Britain is forged through the redeployment of structures that facilitated and legitimised slavery, exploitation and extermination. This is the ’empire at home’ and it is inseparable from the strategies of neo-colonial extraction and oppression of subjects abroad. Here, James Trafford develops the notion of internal colonies, arguing that methods and structures used in colonial rule are re-deployed internally in contemporary Britain in order to recreate and solidify imperial power relations. Using examples including housing segregation, targeted surveillance and counter-insurgency techniques used in the fight against terrorism, Trafford reveals Britain’s internal colonialism to be a reactive mechanism to retain British sovereignty. As politics appears limited by nationalism and protectionism, The Empire at Home issues a powerful challenge to contemporary politics, demanding that Britain as an imperial structure must end.
‘Forceful … Re-centres coloniality in Britain’s past and present in a way that articulates what so many of us experience as the embodied reality of being in Britain, but so rarely get space to voice: that colonialism and its continued methods of control’ – Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, poet and author of ‘Postcolonial Banter’ (Verve Poetry Press, 2019)
‘An excellent and intelligently argued book. It neatly charts the transformation of colonial techniques ‘at home’ and how Britain was reconfigured in postcolonial terms’ – Gurminder K Bhambra, author of ‘Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)
‘An indispensable read for those who want to both understand and put aside the at once Eurocentric and nationalist lens of Brexit debates’ – Angela Mitropoulos, author of ‘Contract and Contagion: From Biopolitics to Oikonomia’ (Minor Compositions, 2012) and ‘Pandemonium Proliferating Borders of Capital and the Pandemic Swerve’ (Pluto, 2020)
‘A must-read for understanding Britain today. Britain is colonial, and the beauty of Trafford’s riveting book is to show just how much this simple fact explains of recent British history’ – Nick Srnicek, author of ‘Platform Capitalism, Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work’ (Polity Press, 2016)
‘Evocative … unflinchingly unveils the workings of race as a ‘technology that forms part of the machinery of colonialism’. Essential reading for an understanding of how and why white Britishness negates those who are ‘in, but not of’ it.’ – Alana Lentin, Associate Professor of Cultural and Social Analysis at Western Sydney University and author of ‘Why Race Still Matters’ (Polity, 2020)
‘A fascinating exposé of Britain as an ongoing colonial project. Deftly provides us with the counternarratives we need to think imaginatively about how to dismantle and ultimately end British colonialism’ – Dr Nadine El-Enany, Co-Director, Centre for Research on Race and Law and author of ‘(B)ordering Britain: Law, Race and Empire’ (MUP, 2019)