Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professorship

Nandita Sharma is Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She is an activist scholar whose research is shaped by the social movements she is active in, including No Borders movements and those struggling for the planetary commons. She is the author of Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of ‘Migrant Workers’ in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2006) and Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants (Duke University Press, 2020).

Nandita was a Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor hosted by MMB and the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) at the University of Bristol in June-July 2022, when we held a series of workshops and lectures with her.

She has recently written a post for the MMB blog, ‘A tale of two worlds: national borders versus a common planet‘, which relates to her public lecture on 29th June, ‘Are immigration controls racist? Lessons from history‘. She has previously written for us about national sovereignty and postcolonial racism and has also reflected on the experience of COVID-19 in the US in her post, ‘From “social distancing” to planetary solidarity’. In 2021 MMB’s Director, Bridget Anderson, discussed immigration controls and the legacies of Empire with her. This interview launched MMB’s new Insights and Sounds series and was accompanied by the MMB Reading Group meeting to discuss her book Home Rule.

MMB Events

Public lecture and reception

‘Are immigration controls racist? Lessons from history’

Speaker: Professor Nandita Sharma, University of Hawai’i, Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor.

Date: Wednesday, 29th June, 6-8pm

Following the Second World War, two related processes took place. First, there was a wide scale effort to delegitimize racist ideologies by demonstrating that ‘race’ was socially and historically constructed. Second, state sovereignty was nearly universally nationalized and, as a result, immigration and border controls proliferated. Nationalist ideologies were rendered not only legitimate but practically mandatory in politics, leading to the normalisation of distinctions between Nationals and Migrants. This talk charted this history to understand how racism, as a consequence of nationalism, is organized, practised and resisted in an era of postcolonialism.

Discussant: Dr Maya Goodfellow, University College London.

Co-hosted by MMB, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, and Bristol Ideas.

Further information here and a video recording of the lecture here:

SPAIS departmental lecture

‘Decolonisation and mobility: decentering the “foreign” and liberating movement’

Speaker: Professor Nandita Sharma, University of Hawai’i, Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor.

Date: Monday, 4th July, 5-7pm

This seminar for UoB staff and students explored how class relations are sidelined when anti-colonial struggles come to be seen as largely about the achievement of national territorial sovereignty. By making ‘home rule’ the accepted vehicle for decolonisation, the problem of colonisation is presented as a problem of foreign rule. Consequently, people’s ongoing struggle against expropriation of land, exploitation of labour, and oppression of their ways of life, are separated from the struggle against colonialism.

In demanding liberation for the ‘nation’ from rulers and profiteers who are not ‘one’s own’, the power of nation-states or those portrayed as ‘national capitalists’ is normalised as a sort of nonpower, notwithstanding nationalist bromides about the ‘People’s power’. Instead, foregrounding the social relationships of colonialism rather than the nationality of either rulers or those they rule over, strengthens the possibility of decolonisation.

PGR workshop

‘How not to think like a state: non-exclusion as the basis of political community’

With Professor Nandita Sharma, University of Hawai’i, Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor.

Date: Tuesday, 12th July, 4-6pm

UoB postgraduates at all stages of their PhD had the opportunity to explore and debate ways of thinking outside the nation state with Nandita, whose work addresses the production of categories of Native and Migrant, the national form of state power, ideologies of racism, and nationalism and autochthony. Participants had the opportunity to discuss their own research and future research plans in the workshop and thought through the ethical, epistemological and political challenges and opportunities of working with and beyond state categories.

Related MMB Blog Posts

Race and nation in an era of postcolonialism: notes from a Bristol Benjamin Meaker Professorship

By Bridget Anderson. In June–July 2022 we were delighted to host Professor Nandita Sharma from the University of Hawai’i as a Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor. It was a productive month for MMB as we kept her busy with a range of events that got us all thinking more about postcolonial nationalist ideologies, decentring the ‘foreign’ and liberating movement. More >

A tale of two worlds: national borders versus a common planet

By Nandita Sharma. We live in a world whose political organisation in no way corresponds with the way we live our lives. This is true ecologically. It may be a cliché but it is plainly evident that the Earth’s atmosphere is not divided by national boundaries. More >

National sovereignty and postcolonial racism

Race, nation and migration – the blog series reframing thinking on movement and racism.

By Nandita Sharma. A focus on migration, mobility and ideas of ‘race’ are crucial aspects of nationalist thought and practice. Indeed, today, racism operates through nationalism. Yet, while racism has been largely delegitimised, nationalism has not. More >

From ‘social distancing’ to planetary solidarity

Letter from Afar – the blog series about life and research in the time of COVID-19.

By Nandita Sharma. Greetings from Hawai’i! Reading Colin’s blog from the ‘afar’ of Bristol has made me think about distance, and the (dis)connections between physical and social distancing. We are physically far apart, but, I like to think, socially close. This seems to run counter to the ‘social distancing’ we are being enjoined to adopt. More >

MMB Insights and Sounds – Interview

‘What do immigration controls have to do with Empire?’

Professor Nandita Sharma from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in conversation with Professor Bridget Anderson.

MMB Related Events

‘African Apocalypse’ – film screening

On Saturday 16th July, 3-6.30pm, there will be a screening and panel discussion of the documentary film ‘African Apocalypse‘ in the Arnolfini. This event will be hosted in partnership with PARC, Department of Television and Film Studies, Bristol Ideas and Afrika Eye. Further details will be coming soon.

MMB Reading Group: Home Rule by Nandita Sharma

In May the MMB Reading Group discussed Nandita’s recent book Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants (2020, Duke University Press). In this book she explores how the current political order of nation-states institutionalises the notion that each ‘people’ has its own place in the world by limiting access to national citizenship and authorised immigration.

MMB Related Publications

Bridget Anderson contributed a chapter ‘The Banality of Citizenship: From Workers to Migrants and Fantasy Citizens‘ to the Journal of World-Systems Research, SYMPOSIUM: HOME RULE BY NANDITA SHARMA, Vol 27, 2, Summer/Fall 2021