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Are Immigration Controls Racist? Lessons from History

Wednesday 29 June at 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

A public lecture by Professor Nandita Sharma on racism, nationalist ideologies and the creation of controls over cross-border movement.

Following the Second World War imperial states were largely replaced by nation states, leading to a proliferation of immigration and border controls around the globe. Nationalist ideologies became not only legitimate but practically mandatory in politics, resulting in a widely accepted distinction between ‘Natives’ and ‘Migrants’. At the same time, there was a wide-scale effort to delegitimise racist ideologies – associated with Nazi Germany – demonstrating that ‘race’ was socially and historically constructed.

Today, the racism of colonial hierarchies has been transferred onto foreignness and finds expression in the everyday nationalism that underpins national borders.

In this public lecture Nandita charts the post-war movement towards national sovereignty to understand how, in the postcolonial era, racism is organised, practised and resisted. In particular, she examines the growing ‘autochthonisation’ of politics: that is, how the ‘national’ is being reconfigured as the ‘native’, belonging to the soil. From White supremacists in the Rich World to anti-colonial movements of ‘indigenous’ people in old White British colonies she discusses a range of autochthonous movements in very different contexts, with very different political registers. Through these examples she shows us how today’s ‘migrants’ are being re-imagined as ‘colonisers’. She will also illustrate how national ideas of soil are being racialised and racist ideas of blood are being territorialised in these postcolonial narratives.

Following her lecture Nandita will be in discussion with Dr Maya Goodfellow, author of Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats (Verso, 2020), to explore further the connections between race and immigration controls in the UK and beyond.


The discussion will be followed by a reception in the foyer of the Fry Building.

The event is free to attend but registration is essential. Please visit the Eventbrite page to register.



Nandita Sharma is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She is an activist scholar whose research is shaped by the social movements she supports, including No Borders movements and those struggling for the planetary commons. Her latest book is Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants (Duke University Press, 2020). Nandita is a Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor, hosted in Bristol during June and July 2022 by MMB.

Maya Goodfellow is a writer and academic specialising in the relationships between race, bordering and capitalism. She is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the Sarah Parker Remond Centre, UCL, and a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, University of Sheffield. She has written for The Guardian, New Statesman and The New York Times among other publications, and appears regularly on the BBC and other channels.

The lecture will be chaired by Bridget Anderson, Director of MMB and Professor of Migration, Mobilities and Citizenship, University of Bristol.

The event is held in association with Bristol Ideas and the School of Sociology Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol.


Please ensure that you arrive in time to secure your place in the lecture theatre. Latecomers will only be let in if places are still available.

We seek to make our events accessible to everyone, so please let us know if you face barriers we could address.


 Are Immigration Controls Racist? Lessons from History image


Wednesday 29 June
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm




G.10 Lecture Theatre, Fry Building
Woodland Road
Bristol , BS8 1UG United Kingdom
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