Špela Drnovšek Zorko, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick

Genealogies of encounter: race and coloniality among (Central-)East European migrants in Britain

While it is often assumed that the concept of ‘race’ is external to the social and cultural geographies of (Central-)East Europe – in contrast to notions of ‘ethnic’ or ‘religious’ difference – recent debates (Baker 2018; Dzenovska 2013; Imre 2012) are opening up possibilities for examining the articulations between race, coloniality, and the global in postsocialist Europe. At the same time, broader calls to recognise the connections (Bhambra 2014) between seemingly disparate or marginal histories offer a challenge to the assumed centrality of Western Europe as the primary site of ‘new’ global encounters, as well as to the selective epistemologies that underpin such assumptions. This paper sets out a preliminary theoretical approach to a new project provisionally entitled “Toward a diasporic postsocialism: ‘race’, migration, and genealogies of encounter”, which investigates how (Central-)East European migrants living in Britain narrate their encounters with race and coloniality. I propose a conceptual lens that locates such encounters against a historical legacy of Cold War intersections between the state socialist and decolonising worlds, rather than seeing them solely as a consequence of ‘multicultural’ or ‘post-Brexit’ Britain. At the same time, I draw on ethnographic data from past research to address the ambivalence of self-conscious encounters across racialised difference, emphasising that recognition might not necessarily equate to solidarity, or lead to a commitment to coalition-building.

Špela Drnovšek Zorko is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, working on a postdoctoral project investigating how Central and East European migrants living in Britain articulate their encounters with race and coloniality, as well as how such encounters might be read against a historical background of Cold War internationalism. Prior to taking up the fellowship, Špela obtained her PhD in Anthropology at SOAS, University of London, with a thesis on intergenerational memory among former Yugoslav migrants. Between 2012 and 2015 she was an Early Stage Researcher in the Marie Curie Initial Training Network ‘Diasporic Constructions of Home and Belonging’ (CoHaB) and has also taught at SOAS as a Senior Teaching Fellow on the MA Migration and Diaspora Studies.

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