by Gurminder K Bhambra, University of Warwick
Attempts to address the current crisis often seek to make distinctions between ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’ and between refugees / migrants and citizens. But, I suggest, these distinctions are part of the problem. Part of the solution is to rethink our histories of ‘national states’ – and the rights and claims they enable – through a ‘connected sociologies’ approach that acknowledges the shared histories that bring states and colonies together.
The crisis – or tragedy – currently playing out on, and within, the borders of Europe cannot have escaped anyone’s attention. Especially not after pictures of the body of the 3 year old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, circulated around the world. Equally shocking, although in a different way, were the images of refugees being taken, without their knowledge, to camps on trains in Hungary. The crisis is not new, but is newly gaining traction within European news media and wider political and public opinion. It is confused with ongoing debates on immigration, the free movement of people within the EU, and the nature of our obligations within international refugee law. While these are distinct issues, they are also, as I will go on to suggest in conclusion, profoundly connected through our shared histories of colonialism and neo-colonialism.