This interview is part of a series of interviews with academics and practitioners early in their careers. Current research results and projects as well as advice for other young scientists are discussed in the interviews.
Luke de Noronha is an academic and writer at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Deportation of black British: portraits of the deportation to Jamaica, and producer of the podcast Deportation discs. He has written a lot on immigration, racism and deportation politics for the United States GuardianVerso blogs, VICE, Red pepper, openDemocracy, The new humanist, and Armistice magazine. He lives in London and is on Twitter @LukeEdeNoronha. (For a 30% discount Deporting Black British Use the code “Deporting30” on the MUP site.
What (or who) fostered the most important changes in your thinking or encouraged you to pursue your research area?
When I was a student, I was most taken with the work of Stuart Hall and his many students. It was this writing about “race”, racism and identity, culture, belonging and difference that preoccupied my thinking. At the same time, I started working with people in the asylum system and making friends with people who lived under the constant threat of illegality, detention and deportation. The attempt to bring these two perspectives on Great Britain into conversation has shaped my work since then: the anti-racist position, which takes culture and identity (or rather identification) seriously, and the perspective of the legally excluded people who are precisely because of their migraine and illegality .
My decisions about what to research have been motivated by my careful attention to specific forms of border violence and my deep concern about what that violence means to all of us. Long frustrated by liberal arguments about the merits of certain groups of “vulnerable” migrants – real refugees, victims of human trafficking, women and children – I wanted to turn away from arguments about innocence and victims (hence my focus on “foreign criminals”). these archetypal “bad migrants”). Of course, my critical view of borders and racism did not come to me in any kind of vision, but through listening to people making radical political movements against immigration controls and indeed against prisons.
In your article Deportation, Racism and Multi-Status Great BritainYou deny the claim that the UK immigration regime is not racist. As well as reflect British racism, how do immigration controls shape and produce racist meanings and practices?
The claim that immigration controls are “not racist” is important to border states. After all, nobody wants to be racist, not even right-wing ultra-nationalists. However, when political parties feel compelled to say, “It is not racist to worry about immigration,” they reveal something. In part, of course, they beat the drum that the pc has gone mad and call on the “culture wars” – a kind of argument that these leftists call anything and everything as racist. The fact that they keep saying that immigration control is not racist reminds us that race-related issues cannot be kept apart from immigration issues. After all, the country’s racialized outsiders are “migrants” – or at least they were originally a second generation or “migrant” – and if they misbehave, they should go back to where they (really) come from. The anti-immigrant discourse is aimed at racially defined migrants (Muslims, Arabs, Africans, Roma). Racial fear and resentment always affect those out of place, outsiders in the national chimney, whether we made the mistake of letting them in yesterday or several generations ago, and racism is a measure of the will that pushes out, cuts out and expels these foreign bodies.
So immigration controls can never be raceless, and many migrant activists respond with the bold claim that borders are indeed inherently racist. I agree with this general assertion, but I am interested in what we mean by that. Sometimes people think that borders are racist because they discriminate unequally against groups within the system – e.g. black people who tend to be held back on deportation flights ”. In a broader sense, some argue that “borders are racist because most of the imprisoned and deported people are from former British colonies”. The problem with the first argument is that it looks for evidence of discrimination and disproportionality in order to reveal the truth of racism, when it is actually the legal classification, segregation and displacement that, in and of itself, constitutes racism (maybe racism is the word That is leading us astray here, and instead we should say that borders are technologies of racial government, raciology, racial education, or something similar unsightly. In the meantime, the latter argument is about racism and the earlier colonized, albeit more structural , also unsatisfactory, not least because it is not always true. The three main nationalities who were deported in 2017 were Albanians, Poles and Romanians, although Indians are likely to stay longer and Jamaicans are more likely to be forced to flights in body belts The point is that immigration controls are not just the old racisms reflect and repeat the same colonial story with different characters. Things change in ways that matter.
Racism is historically specific and always in training. As Cedric Robinson puts it (in this admittedly over-quoted passage): “Race shows the semblance of stability. However, history endangers this fixity. Breed contains mercury – deadly and smooth ”(2007: p. 4). As people engaged in fighting racism and defending people’s right of movement, we need to be aware of how movement and movement controls in the present create and reconfigure racial differences and hierarchies (even if they are not called racist). Racial education is always centrally constituted by the government for mobility, and we need to make connections between supposedly racially neutral immigration and citizenship policies and cultures of racism and violence on the streets. Most importantly, I suppose, the recognition that immigration controls shape and generate racist meanings and practices reminds us that anti-racism necessarily means supporting (illegalized) migrants and not settling into our tentative affiliations as underage citizens while others are imprisoned and deported.
Your new book Deportation of the Black British: Portraits of the Deportation to Jamaica tells the life stories of four men who grew up in Great Britain and were deported to Jamaica. What do these biographies tell us about immigration control and race in Britain today?
The book uses life stories and ethnographic methods to develop intimate portraits of these four men, men who moved to the UK as children and lived roughly half their lives in the UK before being deported to Jamaica. You grew up in the UK, identify with the UK and are indistinguishable from black British citizens. Now they are living in exile in Jamaica, separated from their partners, parents, children etc. The book testifies to their stories as a way to remind readers of how cruel the British immigration system is and how these policies affect not only deported people but also affects their remaining loved ones.
In the book, I argue that the UK is increasingly multi-status so that the divisions we need to analyze – race, gender, class – are broken and complicated by legal status. Immigration controls lead to friendship groups and close relationships between siblings, parents and children, schoolmates, neighbors, colleagues and prisoners and create new lines of separation and exclusion. If we are to understand racism in Britain, we have to pay attention. Equally important, however, in understanding how immigration controls are actually enforced, is to think about the structuring power of racism to determine whose immigration status is most likely to ultimately be achieved upon deportation. Not everyone who can be deported is deported. Racism is central to determining who is actually being removed. Most important to my job is that people who are criminalized are the most likely to be deported. Therefore, racism in the criminal justice system has consequences for deportation.
In a broader sense, the book examines when and how these four men were criminalized and illegalized, and questions how these processes were shaped by racism, poverty, and gender-specific identities. Connections are made between the British immigration regime and racism, austerity measures and the masculinity of the police. In this way, hopefully the book not only offers portraits of these four men, but also a portrait of Britain, a country that I claim is increasingly multi-status and multi-racist.
What did your field work in Jamaica teach you about life after deportation?
First, there is the devastating brutality of deportation, which becomes much sharper and more forceful when you spend time with people after deportation. When you sit and talk with someone over time and when everything keeps turning to the finality of the deportation, the forced separation and absence, the rupture and the devastation. Trying to write about them has been difficult, but it remains the main reason for the book, my attempt to say something critical and meaningful about these stories.
Then, of course, by spending time in Jamaica and meeting people after they were deported, I was able to share their experiences in relation to other Jamaicans who were struggling to find places to breathe. What is shared between deported people and those among whom they return to live? Asking this question raises several other questions about the Jamaican economy and society, the frustrated mobilities that characterize Jamaican citizenship in general, and the way the history of slavery and colonialism eats its way into the present (to one On loan from Stuart Hall). . In the last two chapters of the book, I talk about mobility and racial education, citizenship in a global perspective, and Jamaican economy, society, and history. I suppose this is a strength of the UK-Jamaica switch in research. Deportation can no longer remain just a national political issue. This becomes especially clear when you find that deportation is embedded in other foreign policy and diplomatic arrangements, particularly those related to aid and development.
In your podcast Deportation discs (a track on Desert Island Discs), “Deportees” in Jamaica tell their stories of exile through music. How does telling these stories in this way contribute to our understanding of the individual lived experiences of deportation, instead of just reading about deportation in the media?
There is a lot of talk in social research about “giving a voice” which sounds (and is) pretty gross. But if you take it literally, voice like the sound of a voice, I think it can be really powerful, especially with deportation stories. Hearing the voices, the accents of the people in my book makes my argument for me; The title “Deporting Black Britons” suddenly makes sense when Chris or Kemoy are speaking on a microphone in their London accent. There’s also the sonic register of the voice, the way people speak, pause, laugh, sigh, accelerate, trace that everything is flattened out of the interview transcript, and I think the Deportation Discs put some of that back in.
Then of course there is the music. I love Desert Island discs on Radio 4, at least as a format. I think sections of life story interviews that are interrupted or interrupted by the accompanying soundtrack are a wonderful way to tell and share. Doing this with deported people was really powerful, and the music selection was one that you rarely have here on the BBC. I found that deported people are also particularly likely to think in a really intelligent and thoughtful way about a soundtrack to their life. I think people who have been arrested and then deported spend a lot of time thinking about different moments in their lives, how it could have been different, where the turning points were and how they got to where they are. It makes for a powerful conversation.
What are you working on right now?
A couple of bits. I am one of eight authors of a book written together Empire’s Endgame: Racism and the British Statecoming out with Pluto Press in February 2021. It’s not an edited collection where we write chapters at a time, but a full book written by all of us, which was a fun process! I’m also working on a book, co-authored with Gracie Mae Bradley, on Abolishing Borders, which will come out later in 2021. Then I want to take a break from writing projects!
I will start at UCL in January as a lecturer at the new Sarah Parker Remond Center for the Study of Racism and Racization. The center is led by Paul Gilroy and together with him and my new colleague Paige Patchin we will develop an MA program in race, ethnicity and postcolonial studies. It’s really exciting. The center has a particular interest in researching data, climate and health, so I am sure that these core areas will shape my future research on topics related to “race” and racism.
What is the most important advice you can give young scientists?
Research things that are important to you. The feeling of self-doubt and the constant reminder that you haven’t read enough don’t go away and everything becomes manageable only by studying important things with others and learning from unexpected sources. Find comrades and contemporaries to talk and reflect with, and don’t rely too much on PhD students. The university can be a haven, but it’s also a rather messed up place where student debts earn salaries and most people are left out. Radical and interesting ideas occur elsewhere too, so don’t get too comfortable and plan the revolution :).
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