Inexperienced European Journal: In your ebook Eurowhiteness, you talk about Europe’s civilizational flip. What do you imply by that? When did it start, and when did it turn into obvious?
Hans Kundnani: It isn’t fully clear when it started. It could not even be obvious now, at the very least to lots of people. I began fascinated with the civilizational flip round 2020 and 2021. However looking back, the crucial juncture was the refugee disaster in 2015. Within the 20 years between the tip of the Chilly Struggle and 2010, the EU had been in expansive, offensive mode. It was optimistic and outward-looking, and imagined a world that might nearly be remade in its personal picture. The phrase that captures this finest is the title of a ebook by Mark Leonard of the European Council on Overseas Relations, Why Europe Will Run the twenty first Century. This hubristic, optimistic interval got here to an finish with the eurozone disaster, the Arab Spring in 2011, after which the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Europe begins to see itself as being on the defensive.
So the change is already there within the first half of the 2010s, however then with the refugee disaster in 2015, this defensiveness takes on a unique form. Not solely does the EU see itself as being surrounded by threats however, after 2015, it additionally perceives these threats in civilizational phrases.
That’s the civilizational flip, when threats are now not seen in an ideological approach or in a geopolitical or realist approach, however within the context of a Huntingtonian ‘conflict of civilizations’, as threats in opposition to a European civilization that should be protected.
Your ebook argues that what underlies this flip is ‘Eurowhiteness’. What’s Eurowhiteness and the place does the time period come from?
I borrow this time period from József Böröcz, an American sociologist. He makes use of the phrase in a really specific strategy to talk about the interior hierarchy inside what he calls the ‘construction of whiteness’. He differentiates, roughly, Western Europeans from Central and Jap Europeans and Southern Europeans, who’ve an aspirational need to turn into absolutely white. I exploit it in a barely totally different approach. I distinguish between ethnic/cultural variations of European id on the one hand, and civic variations on the opposite. This attracts on theories of nationalism, which distinguish between ethnic/cultural nationalism and civic nationalism, and applies it to learn what I name ‘regionalism’, in different phrases, to Europe.
For me, Eurowhiteness is an ethnic/cultural concept of Europe. My argument is that there are each ethnic/cultural and civic currents of concepts of Europe going again to the Enlightenment at the very least. Specifically, I discuss Eurowhiteness to counsel that Europe and whiteness have one thing to do with one another, which is kind of apparent when you consider it, although it’s not one thing individuals need to discuss. The thought of a post-war European id, centred on the EU, is one which a variety of pro-Europeans need to imagine has nothing to do with whiteness. However I argue that the ethnic/cultural model of European id continued after World Struggle II, and influenced and knowledgeable European integration itself.
So the EU’s civilizational flip might need turn into extra evident in the previous few years, but it surely has not changed or outdated extra civic understandings of Europe. It’s been current all through.
Ethnic/cultural concepts of Europe return to the medieval interval, when Europe was synonymous with Christendom, and what it meant to be European was principally synonymous with being Christian. Within the trendy interval, beginning with the Enlightenment, there was the start of a civic concept of what Europe is. From then on, each the ethnic/cultural and the civic currents are current and work together in some very complicated methods. Within the post-World Struggle II interval, pro-Europeans wish to suppose that the ethnic/cultural aspect of European id went away, and it in all probability did lose some salience. However what’s stunning is that it’s now having a resurgence.
Through which of at present’s EU insurance policies do you see the civilizational flip?
It’s most seen in migration coverage. Since 2015, Europe has in impact been constructing a wall within the Mediterranean. In different phrases, it’s not that totally different from the coverage that Trump pursued whereas he was US president, besides that, as a substitute of a land border with Mexico, it’s a sea border with North Africa. Human Rights Watch says that EU migration coverage might be summarised in three phrases: ‘Allow them to die.’ Since 2014, 28,000 individuals have died within the Mediterranean. Greater than 2000 up to now in 2023. The Mediterranean is the deadliest border on this planet.
Since Ursula von der Leyen turned European Fee president in 2019, there’s been a European Commissioner for ‘selling our European lifestyle’. It was initially for ‘defending our European lifestyle’. There was a silly argument within the European Parliament about that verb, however the true downside isn’t the verb however the phrase ‘our European lifestyle’. The job of the Commissioner for Selling our European Method of Life is, at the very least partly, to maintain migrants out. It makes it very express that migration isn’t just a tough coverage downside to handle however a risk to the European lifestyle.
This language of civilization can be creeping into European international coverage. The far proper tends to bang on concerning the risk to European civilization from migration, however the centre proper more and more makes use of the identical language to debate European international coverage. In all of the debates about European sovereignty, strategic autonomy, and a geopolitical Europe, there’s this actual sense that Europe must defend itself from threats perceived in civilizational phrases. The important thing determine right here is France’s President Emmanuel Macron. Macron is a politician who first began on the centre left in Hollande’s authorities and now could be a centre-right or radical-centrist politician who explicitly talks about defending European civilization. My worry is that the far proper and the centrists are more and more considering in the identical approach.
Do you suppose that the associations between the concept of Europe and the European mission and whiteness forestall ethnic minorities from figuring out with EU politics?
I’m undecided, and an enormous a part of what the ebook is making an attempt to do is simply to place a few of these points on the desk. For the UK, which is the nation that I do know finest, the image is pretty clear empirically. Anecdotally, but additionally based mostly on tutorial analysis and information, it’s clear that non-white Brits establish with Europe even lower than white Brits do.
My father was Indian and my mom is Dutch. However, even in my case, I discover it harder to establish as European than I feel a variety of white Brits do. After I was working for a European suppose tank, a few of my colleagues would say, ‘I’m a proud European,’ or, ‘I’m 100 per cent European.’ And that’s advantageous, however I couldn’t try this. In spite of everything, I’m additionally half Asian, proper? Equally, should you’re black, you’re going to say, ‘Nicely, I’m half African, proper? I can’t be fully European.’
Now, what does that imply in follow? In the event you’re a non-white individual rising up in France, are you much less more likely to establish with a European mission than with France? Intuitively, I’d in all probability say sure. However I don’t know the reply to that, and one of many causes that we are able to’t say for positive is that, so far as continental Europe goes, there’s such an absence of knowledge.
Many European international locations wouldn’t have any information on race or ethnic minorities. France doesn’t recognise the concept of race formally. Germany even wished to take away the point out of race from the structure, despite the fact that it was a clause defending individuals from racial discrimination. Why are so many European international locations so uncomfortable with the concept of race?
Various things are happening right here. In easy phrases, the explanation France opposes it has to do with its Republican custom of laïcité. Within the case of Germany, although that is clearly a bit reductive, as a result of it associates these varieties of ethnic classes with Nazism. However in each instances, the historical past of their political tradition signifies that they’ve an in-built resistance to amassing information on race and due to this fact racial discrimination. That will be the extra charitable clarification. The extra cynical clarification is that they need to deny that racism is an issue. It’s simpler to disclaim that racism is an issue if no information is pointing to drawback.
Discussions of race inevitably lead again to colonialism. Within the instant many years after World Struggle II, the founding members of the EU have been all white European empires who banded collectively as they have been shedding their colonies. Why is the post-imperial a part of the EU’s origin story usually forgotten?
Once more, there may be an empathetic reply and a extra cynical one. Let me begin with the cynical reply. The EU has mythologised itself partly as a aware technique of what I name ‘region-building’, which is analogous to nation-building within the nineteenth century. The parable tends to be a comforting, constructive story about your historical past that ignores a few of the realities. After the colonial histories of France or the Netherlands had come to an finish, they consigned it to a ‘reminiscence gap’, as historian Tony Judt places it.1 They type of moved on and tried to neglect a painful, tough historical past of humiliation. Colonialism was one thing that they only wished to maneuver on from.
However I’ve a barely totally different and fewer cynical interpretation of why it will get forgotten. From the Nineteen Sixties onwards, the Holocaust began to turn into a central collective reminiscence throughout the EU and for pro-Europeans. Tony Judt writes that Holocaust recognition is ‘our modern European entry ticket’. The disconnect between the reminiscence of the Holocaust and the forgetting of colonialism is placing, and I’d argue that there’s a structural dimension to that disconnect.
The Holocaust and the Second World Struggle match very neatly into the prevailing narrative of the EU as a peace mission. This can be a story that pro-Europeans inform about what the EU has finished, from the Schuman plan to overcoming the centuries of battle between France and Germany that culminated in World Struggle II. What that story does is to encourage Europeans to consider their histories nearly solely in relation to one another. It’s the historical past of Europe as an inner story of how European international locations interacted with one another during which the remainder of the world is totally forgotten. The exterior classes of European historical past, what Europeans did to the remainder of the world, but additionally conversely the affect that the remainder of the world had on Europe, particularly Africa and the Center East, are erased.
Enthusiastic about European historical past as a closed system brings Europeans collectively. It permits them to think about themselves as a ‘neighborhood of destiny’. However if you begin to herald the historical past of European colonialism, it has nearly the other impact. It begins to tug Europeans aside. For instance, France has to consider its historical past in Algeria, West and Central Africa, and Indochina [today’s Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam]. In the event you begin to think about your historical past as being a part of a unique neighborhood of destiny, that of your former colonies, you might have a accountability to them. In the identical approach that pro-Europeans need to suppose that Germans have a accountability to France, participating with the historical past of colonialism encourages Europeans to suppose by way of different communities of destiny. The danger, from a pro-European perspective, is that these histories are a centrifugal drive.
The historical past is much more difficult should you think about Central and Jap Europe or different international locations corresponding to Eire, for that matter.
At a stretch, you possibly can take into consideration a collective Western European mission of reparations. You possibly can think about, in principle at the very least, a collective European mission of reparations between Western European international locations corresponding to France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and others. In spite of everything, we have a tendency to think about European colonialism as a aggressive mission between totally different European nations, but it surely was additionally cooperative in some ways. The issue is that Central and Jap Europeans take a look at their historical past in a totally totally different approach. They see themselves as victims, definitely of imperialism, some would even declare colonialism. So even should you might get Western European international locations to agree, and I feel we’re a great distance from that, Central and Jap European international locations take a look at this in such a unique approach that I feel it’s onerous to think about the EU, as an entire, enterprise any type of mission of reparations.
Is there a hyperlink between Eurowhiteness and Europe’s democratic deficit?
What the EU does, roughly, is depoliticization. It takes coverage, particularly financial coverage, out of the house of democratic contestation. On the outset, that was the genius of the European mission, as a result of depoliticising coal and metal coverage made battle between France and Germany materially inconceivable, as Robert Schuman mentioned. Because the mission went additional, nevertheless, depoliticization began to turn into an issue from a democratic perspective. Financial coverage should be the centre of democratic contestation, but it surely was faraway from that house – and should you take financial coverage out, what do you might have left apart from tradition?
Within the ebb and circulate between a civic concept of Europe and an ethnic/cultural concept, the civic concept dominated within the lengthy interval between the lack of European colonies within the Nineteen Sixties and the start of the eurozone disaster in 2010. This civic concept was centred on the social market economic system and the depoliticised mode of governance that European integration produced. For the reason that monetary disaster, nevertheless, that mannequin of the social market economic system and the welfare state has been hollowed out by neoliberalism. In the meantime, there was a backlash in opposition to the EU’s depoliticised mode of governance, which first turned obvious within the referendums over the Maastricht Treaty and later the Constitutional Conference.
The result’s that progressively over the previous few many years, it’s turn into more and more tough to say that Europe stands for the social market economic system, the welfare state, and depoliticised governance. That’s the second when pro-Europeans started to succeed in for a cultural definition of what Europe is. The European lifestyle now not refers back to the social market economic system or its mode of governance; now it’s about defending European residents from Islam or Islamism.
Do you suppose that the response to the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has additionally been responded to in civilizational phrases?
I feel it’s pretty clear that the battle has been framed in fairly a civilizational approach. The distinction between how Ukrainian refugees and refugees from different elements of the world are handled may be very placing. At the start of the battle, von der Leyen mentioned, ‘Ukraine belongs to us.’ That language would by no means be used about Algeria, Morocco, or Syria. I additionally suppose that Russia is being constructed as a civilizational ‘different’ in opposition to which Europe defines itself, and there’s an extended historical past to that concept.
There are different methods to have a look at the battle although: in a realist approach and even an ideological, neoconservative approach – that’s, as a part of a world battle between democracy and authoritarianism. Purist neoconservatives genuinely imagine that each nation on this planet might turn into a democracy. It’s what led to their recklessness in Iraq. You would possibly disagree with them, however it’s nonetheless not a civilizational framing.
Is it attainable to separate supporting, say, European sovereignty from exclusionary discourses? Are you able to not help European strategic autonomy and possibly even a European military with out slipping into defending racist border insurance policies?
It completely is feasible, which is why I’m making these arguments. I’m sceptical of concepts of European sovereignty and a geopolitical Europe, however for different causes. What I’m making an attempt to do is to get these pro-Europeans who do imagine in this stuff to be extra cautious about how they discuss it.
There are at the very least two other ways of fascinated with a geopolitical Europe, and there could also be others too. The primary may be very realist. In a world of nice energy competitors, Europe additionally must be a continental nice energy alongside China, the US, Russia, and so forth. It is likely to be onerous for pro-Europeans to suppose in that approach as a result of it requires them to desert the excessive ethical floor, the pro-European ethical superiority because it have been. However there may be nothing improper with that realist framing.
There may be additionally an ideological framing freed from ethnic, non secular, or civilizational connotations. That is an argument concerning the international battle between authoritarianism and democracy, which hawkish individuals within the UK and US take into consideration. I don’t agree with that studying, however at the very least the civilizational aspect is absent. A robust Europe with a coherent, efficient European international coverage doesn’t must be an amazing civilization.
There was an effort in inexperienced politics lately to consider place, territory, and even rootedness whereas avoiding the ‘blood and soil’ risks of such discourse. You’ll find it in Latour’s writing a few new political spectrum or the efforts of the German Greens to redefine the notion of Heimat. Are you able to try this with out falling into the racist or civilizational mind-set concerning the world?
I recognize that you just acknowledge this hazard in inexperienced politics as a result of lots of people don’t. For instance, right-wing ecology in Germany goes again to the Romantic motion within the nineteenth century and was current within the early part of the German Greens.
However the query that I’ve been asking myself in the previous few years is: because the local weather disaster will get extra acute and local weather change strikes up the political agenda, will it overcome the fault traces in our politics – in different phrases, will a brand new consensus emerge – or will it someway deepen these fault traces? Thus far at the very least, local weather change appears to be getting sucked into our tradition wars.
You might be speaking about roots in connection to soil, to the local weather and the setting. I’m fairly sceptical concerning the concept of roots generally and my considering right here comes from debates about race. [Cultural studies scholars] Stuart Corridor and Paul Gilroy would say that we have to discuss much less about ‘roots’ and extra about ‘routes’. In different phrases, it isn’t about making an attempt to return to one thing or someplace. It’s about humanity, and your self as a person, being on a journey. I really like that concept.