Six decades after Frantz Fanon wrote that “the European game has finally ended” (1963: 312), the whistle has yet to blow on Europe. After sloughing off its imperial encumbrances, Europe now claims to have become an island of peace and security, liberalism and prosperity, rights, freedoms, progress, and the rule of law.1 This picture of impregnable stability relies on a constantly moving battery of meanings and projections. Most importantly, it depends on the borders—physical, conceptual, political, temporal—that guard Europe from dangerous intrusions, especially those coming from the south.
At the edges of Europe, the violence of global separation finds new and intense forms. The continent's maritime border has become a “macabre deathscape” whose generation of suffering—including 31,799 deaths or disappearances recorded between 2000 and 2016—is “one of the defining moral and political issues of our time” (De Genova 2017: 2; Steinhilper and Gruijters 2018: 515). The range of political possibility for those on the wrong side of that border meanwhile seems ever narrower and more retrenched. In contrast to the promises of rapid industrialization and global economic transformation that characterized the trente glorieuses of the South (Dietrich 2017), populations in Europe's former colonial territories are now left with a sharply delimited spectrum of political choice. More than ever before, social mobility is individualized: enrichment, celebrity, clandestine migration. The Southern condition can be escaped, perhaps, by a lucky few, but not abolished.
The study of contemporary Europe's “crises” demands historically informed theorization.2 In this special issue, we refract our contemporary moment through an earlier conjuncture's anticolonialism. The history of anticolonial praxis can, we suggest, offer a resonant vision of freedom and social transformation as well as an astute analysis of global order and the nature of Europe in particular. The anticolonial praxis of the mid-twentieth century developed its ideas about society, critique, solidarity, and intellectual life in relation to structures of power and organized forms of political struggle—the nature of hegemony, in other words—that have today changed shape. Our task is therefore to understand what has changed alongside what has lingered.
We suggest that the history of attempts to understand Europe's “Southern questions” can be applied to the contemporary politics of Europe, resisting the idea that the colonial and postcolonial eras are radically dissociated. Contemporary Europe takes on new and strange forms when it is viewed from the anticolonial moment of the twentieth century. By recognizing the history of resistance—analytical, cultural, intellectual, political—to imperial domination alongside the perpetuation of structures of imperial domination themselves, an anticolonial perspective challenges the logic of European self-abnegation that isolates the present from the history that constituted it.
Imperial Continuum, Conjunctural Shift
Bouchra Khalili's print The Archipelago (2015) cartographically reproduces—though, she clarifies, the work is “more a metaphor than an actual map” (Khalili 2018)—the location of liberation and antifascist movements that were headquartered in Algiers between 1962 and 1972. The Archipelago maps the shape and geographical positions of the movements’ buildings throughout the city, recasting them as islands in a pale blue sea. The presence of these organizations seeking social and political transformation thus produces a new kind of transnational social space—one in which internationalism and nationalism coexist at different scales.
Today there is no major anticapitalist formation: state authoritarianism and liberal capitalism dominate the political horizons of possibility. If the boundaries of the world have changed shape, not least in the creation of Fortress Europe and its attendant projects of nationalist retrenchment, the spectrum of antisystemic politics has also shifted. In the early twentieth century, an expansive imperialism operated through state-backed projects of commodity extraction and cultural authority, straining to realize its project of Whiteness—“the possessive claim of the universe itself” (Hartman 2020). As we will discuss in the next section, the response of anticolonialists took the form of movements that fought for national independence even as their spatial imaginaries critiqued and surpassed the state.
Yet decolonization in the form of the state—as opposed to the more expansive political configurations tabled by some anticolonialists—has radically diminished the status of anticolonial nationalism. With some notable exceptions, “national liberation” has ceased to function as a political horizon. We are confronted with a political map that contrasts sharply with Khalili's archipelago. The liberation movements stationed in 1960s Algiers have mostly returned home, taken power, and encountered the sharp limitations of state building. In seeking to sketch out the parameters of our own conjuncture, we are confronted by the absence of these movements. Where some of the organizations featured in The Archipelago endure—for example the ANC, the MPLA, the PAIGC, FRELIMO—they have become parties of government that are ill placed and largely unwilling to take forward an anticolonial tradition that aims for more than simply an “alternative ruling class” (Berger 2001: 4).
Against the idea that Europe is a simple geographical reality, referring to a delimited and bordered space with citizens (inside) and noncitizens (outside), researchers working on migration, citizenship, and borders have shown how Europe's “border work” reaches far beyond the continent's boundaries and simultaneously regulates everyday life deep within its heartlands (Bialasiewicz 2012). Regions like North Africa and the Sahara are not simply outside Europe: they are recruited into its bordering regime as radically unequal participants. Systems of migration and asylum control within the borders of the European Union—as within the borders of the United States—have been amply theorized as forms of illegality, precarity, transience, and physical debilitation on which social discipline and labor subordination are contingent. Laia Soto Bermant understands the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta in North Africa, for example, as a “system of selective permeability” combining both spectacular border practices with quotidian forms of violent inequality, the latter most visible in the smuggling sector that fuels Melilla's economy. “In the southern peripheries,” writes Bermant, “‘Europe’ operates as a powerful conceptual barrier against the threat of an African ‘contagion’” (2017: 125–26).
Some scholars have suggested that we look to migration as a praxis of resistance. The flows of migration pouring from the global South to postcolonial Europe represent, they suggest, “a politics of refusal” (Tazzioli, Garelli, and De Genova 2018). In refusing the assignment of people to places—a human cartography whose roots lie in the history of European racial thought—such unauthorized movement enacts, even if in a disorganized and impromptu way, a form of resistance to the postimperial status quo. Such movement also sometimes converges with struggles that are articulated as political by those who undertake them. With the Gilets Noirs in France, Campagna in Lotta in Italy, and with the nearly five hundred Sans-papiers who occupied a Brussels church during a two-month hunger strike in 2021 (Madia 2021), for example, self-conscious demands materialize among collectives of undocumented people in Europe. Such organizing represents perhaps the most overt contemporary form of politicization of the migration question. In these demands for civic inclusion rather than national independence or global reordering, however, we can see how the center of political gravity has moved. The centrality of demands for citizenship reflect this changing conjuncture. “Liberty, equality, regularization,” in the refrain of the Sans-papiers movement in France 2019; “papers for all,” as the Solidaridade Imigrante protests demand in Lisbon; “residency cards for all,” as Le Sardine Nere say in Naples. The dissolution of the metropole appears impossible; the central political strategy becomes to seek inclusion.
How can we consider the anticolonial conjuncture alongside a present moment that seems so radically delimited? What brings the two together is, most forcefully, empire. Unlike the restriction of scope that characterizes the fate of antisystemic movements, imperium still seeks to grasp the whole world. International institutions and the legal order that underpins them continue to reflect “a discriminatory global legal system historically unique in its universality” (Walter 2017: 13; see also Anderson 2013: 110; Barkawi 2010). This hegemony underwrites a stratified and enduringly racial order whose repercussions can nowhere be evaded. (“Where,” James Baldwin once asked an interviewer “would a fleeing Black man go?” [Dixon 1970].) Empire, seeking to reconcile the logic of territory with the logic of capital, accounts for both stasis and change in the world's political cartography (Harvey 2005). There is no convincing sense in which the nation-state simply replaced the imperial system that preceded it. Neither is there any guarantee that the state will outlive its imperial predecessor. From another perspective, the nation-state may even appear “as a blip on the historical horizon,” one “that emerged recently from under imperial skies and whose hold on the world's political imagination may well prove partial or transitory” (Burbank and Cooper 2011: 3).
If Europe's racial-colonial history and its bordering practices in the present are connected—the history of colonialism shaping the ways that the continent's borders are experienced by those on its peripheries and hinterlands, in its cities, suburbs, and rural zones—anticolonial political thought represents the theoretical correlative to interpreting Europe's colonial present. Twentieth-century anticolonial praxis reconfigured and rearticulated the connections between apparently hermetic spheres of social life—culture and politics, economics and society, present and past. This connectivity was never solely a conceptual endeavor. It was bound up in the production of “insurgent geographies of connection” (Featherstone 2012: 62) between dispersed anticolonialists around the world.
By casting light on the hidden recesses of colonial exploitation—what the Sierra Leone Weekly News (1933) called “the deeds of wrong and injustice perpetrated in such centers where treasures lie buried of the earth”—anticolonial thought bears a close, but virtually unrecognized, relationship to social reproduction theory. Both are premised on a form of unveiling that reveals the true operation of a system of accumulation. Both attack the conceptual segregation of areas of social life—the metropole and colony, the home and workplace—through acts of connection and comparison. When migrant labor is rendered invisible in offices in Madrid, restaurants in Paris, and care homes in London, this fits a historical pattern in which the labor of gendered and racialized people does not only operate on the fringes of the official labor market but, in an important sense, produces the very possibility of that market (Bhattacharya 2017). As Wages for Housework put it, “Our uterus is the wheel that keeps capitalism moving” (Lewis 2021: 16).
Europe's Multiple and Convergent “Souths”
What is the South in relation to which Europe constantly constructs, defines, opposes and reinvents itself? Most obviously, there are two: the global South and Southern Europe. The global South, like the Third World before it, refers to Europe's constitutive and abject outside, the vast hinterland that lies beyond the special zone reserved for the “ethnoclass” privileged as “human” (Wynter 2003: 257). In this sense, the South is another name for that which is not White. The global South is also an identity formed through this shared subjecthood. With a common experience of colonialism and postcolonial malaise comes an identifiably “Southern” critique of Europe—“a mobilising strategy based upon a profound critique of the contemporary international system” (Alden, Morphet, and Vieira 2010: 4). Southern Europe, meanwhile, functions as a kind of border zone between Europe and the global South, especially Africa and Asia. In this imaginary, Southern Europe is at once the barrier against the barbarian and a zone of dangerous proximity to—and potential leakage from—the non-European, especially in its southernmost reaches.
These two European Souths must be complicated. There are, importantly, Souths within Southern Europe itself—most prominently, Italy's mezziogiorno—that occupy distinctive positions within Europe. There are also articulations of Southernness in Southern Europe, from Crete to Faro, that are not simply products of the constructions of the South in dominant European imaginaries (though neither are they ever able totally to dissociate themselves from those constructions). There are North/South divides across Northern European countries, like Britain and France. And the “South” in Europe also refers, separately, to the diaspora populations whose origins lie in the global South: “the Souths in the North” (Wynter 2003: 257). The status of these populations as “Southern” cannot be understood as in any sense naturally deriving from migration and lineage. Their Southern status must always be constructed and invested with meaning according to a specific relation of forces. There are, then, multiple and compounding Souths in Europe, each of which—carrying its own political and geographical valence—performs an important divisive function in the continent's scalar politics.
Though it does not deal with colonialism on an international scale, Gramsci's essay “Some Aspects of the Southern Question” has been rightly seized upon by those eager to consider Europe's relationship to its various Souths. Gramsci's thought was notable for the way it “always ascribed a special significance to the problems of southern Italy” (Coutinho 2012: 39–40). “Some Aspects of the Southern Question” can no longer be described as “under-read and under-analyzed,” as it was by Edward Said (1994: 49) three decades ago. The many readings of the essay undertaken by scholars since then have tended to agree that there is “something innately postcolonial about Gramsci” (Srivastava and Bhattacharya 2012: 12). Readers of “Some Aspects of the Southern Question” will recall that the essay interrogates the North/South divide in Italy that threatens proletarian cohesion in Italy. It does so through a targeted analysis of the difficult relationship between the Italian Communist Party and the peasants of Southern Italy. In what Joseph A. Buttigieg calls “a very specific polemic” (1986: 14), Gramsci addresses the uneven divide between the industrialized and dynamic North—emblematized by the occupied Fiat factory in Turin—and the impoverished, rural, inert, exploited South. Characteristically, Gramsci considers the ideological firmament under which Italy is materially divided. He is especially acerbic about the Southern intellectuals whom he sees as complicit in a machine that acts as an “overseer of Northern capitalism” by mediating between the peasant and landowner (Gramsci 1978: 457).
What is striking in Gramsci's work is not merely the fact of the North's power over the South, but the intricacy of that domination. Gramsci's project was granular: he “strove to understand as comprehensively as possible and in the minutest detail the complexity of the networks through which power is exercised and sustained in society” (Coutinho 2012: 39). This emphasis on detail was the basis for Gramsci's geographical model for analyzing cultural and intellectual formations. Yet the whole is not lost amid its parts. Gramsci's analysis of North-South relations draws out of an accumulation of observations specific insights that call for wider application. For Gramsci, the yoking together of the Italian South to the North emerges as a relationship not only of exploitation but also of legitimation: a relationship that saw the South constructed as backward, static, immobile. The power of “Orientalism in one country” in Italy (Schneider 2020) gestures toward the applicability of a Gramscian method for thinking about Europe's multiple and combined Souths. Consider, for example, how Gramsci's description of a meeting in Turin for Sardinian workers could be applied to countless Southern workers in Europe. Though they had long before migrated to northern Italy, writes Gramsci, the Sardinian workers “remained bound” to their homeland “by innumerable bonds of kinship, friendship, memory, suffering and hope: the hope of returning to their country, but to a country more prosperous and wealthy” (Gramsci 1978: 446).
Gramsci's project was necessarily incomplete. His work is, as Perry Anderson has pointed out, defined by the singular conditions in which it was created: “a work censored twice over,” first by the concepts that Gramsci inherited, second by the prison censors who read over his work, forming a body of work that is characterized by “spaces, ellipses, contradictions, disorders, allusions, repetitions” (1976: 6). And Gramsci's awareness of the constructed nature of the South's immobility does not mean he stood wholly outside that discourse. Jane Schneider points to Gramsci's problematic “pessimism about the capacity of southern peasants to act in history” (2020: 15). Our aim in this collection of essays is to consider how an approach to Europe's “Souths” that draws flexibly on Gramsci might help to bridge the spatiotemporal abyss that separates Europe from its colonial history. A principal route toward this is, we suggest, a reevaluation of the history of anticolonial thought.
Contemporary Europe through Anticolonial Praxis
The category anticolonial encompasses many and varied forms of political thought, which all shared a broadly oppositional—rather than a rehabilitative, reformist, or optimistic—approach to the question of empire. Neither to-do list nor instruction manual, anticolonial political thought emerged in conjunction with organized networks of liberation struggles. It is best understood as a practice of critique that changed in emphasis, tone, and strategy across time and space. The dialectical relationship between that general practice and individual political situations was succinctly articulated by the Bissauan anticolonialist Amílcar Cabral at the Tricontinental Conference in 1966: “However similar our cases and our enemies [ . . . ] national liberation and social revolution are not exportable commodities” (Cabral 1976: 199–220). Cabral's friend and comrade Mário Pinto de Andrade wrote of the push and pull between individual case and structural analysis that preoccupied anticolonial movements. For all the anticolonialists’ effort to bring into view the connected but obscured structures of the colonial world order, it was crucial that “the universal should not asphyxiate the particular” (Laban 1997: 136). Where Cabral, an agronomist, reached for a spatial metaphor, and Andrade for an image of contestation, Frantz Fanon expressed the plastic qualities of anticolonial thought in temporal terms: it was incumbent on each new generation, he wrote, to respond originally to the particularities of their historical moment (1963: 206).
We focus here on twentieth-century anticolonial thought, and in particular that which flourished between the 1920s and the 1960s. Notwithstanding important ambivalences—in recent decades, scholars have rightly questioned the starkness of a binary between pro- and anticolonial thinking (Sen 2013)—the category remains pertinent for describing a rich and variegated body of political thought that took as a key premise a critique of the European empires that had come to dominate the world. Though it has since often been reductively understood as the work of a small canon of thinkers, twentieth-century anticolonial thought was articulated by a transnational and disparate group of intellectuals including writers, journalists, editors, artists, politicians, travelers (see inter alia on Africa and the African diaspora Blain 2018; Derrick 2008; Dewitte 2004; Edwards 2003; on Asia, see Harper 2020; Davies 2019). Much of the West African textual record of anticolonial thought was published, for example, in newspapers, and often either anonymously or pseudonymously (Younis 2022). What brought this writing together was not simply a shared and uncompromising vision of imperial rapacity, but an ambitious approach to rectifying the problem of imperial rule.
Connection, Disaggregation, and Scale
Anticolonialists typically figured nationalism as a means to an end, a staging post on the route to deeper forms of political, social, and economic freedom. The anticapitalism that inflected all these groups’ visions of a transformed world—underlaid by a mid-twentieth-century world order in which capitalism was not the only actually existing economic formation—fostered, in Mark Bradley's phrase, “transnational postcolonial visions in the global South that imagined a world apart both from the bipolar international system and from the imperial order” (2010: 465). There was no stark choice to be made between the nation-to-be and humanity-at-large. The choice of which to emphasize was strategic and temporally contingent, rather than fundamentally mutually exclusive.
Anticolonial political thought was ambitious in scale. By operating in an essentially connective mode, anticolonial analyses of the power of empire sought to rectify the disparate, scattered, and divided nature of the populations subjected to the powerfully mediating (and distorting) force of imperial power. The Caribbean-born, Harlem-based autodidact and activist Hubert Harrison celebrated in 1921 that, in the wake of Europe's destructive war, “the great world majority” were “stretching out their hands to each other and developing a ‘consciousness of kind’” by “seeking to establish their own centers of diffusion of their own internationalism”—one that would counterbalance “the pseudo-internationalism” of capitalist powers (Harrison 2008: 227). Imperialism joined people and transported goods across vast distances, forming grand systems of exchange and political hierarchy. But it was also radically disconnecting in its breaking of ties that either did not serve its interests or sought actively to counter them: “they are constantly sundering us,” argued a Sierra Leonean writer in 1924 (Sierra Leone Weekly News1924). In response, anticolonialists elsewhere in West Africa called for “a unity of sentiment that must gradually encircle the whole coloured world” (Gold Coast Leader1924). The material realities of colonial existence were thus understood as fundamentally conditioned, though never totally controlled or contained, by the metropole. If logics of colonial rule “separate[d] the world's components into bounded units” and “disaggregate[d] their relational histories” (Coronil 1996: 57), anticolonialists suggested instead an analysis of imperial hierarchy. This understood metropole and colony as bound together through structures of unequal exchange.
Surveillance and Movement
Any discussion of contemporary Europe and the question of movement or migration must begin with a recognition of the fact that control over space, land, and mobility—underpinned by a dual logic of discovery and enclosure—was always at the heart of European colonialism. Fanon's account of the colonial city and its Manichean divisions pointed to the way that the colonizer controlled urban space through segregation and separation but also through opacity, refusing (or attempting to refuse) the colonized any power of perspective. “The settler's feet are never visible,” Fanon writes, “except perhaps in the sea; but there you're never close enough to see them” (1963: 39). In India, as Stephen Legg has shown, the British colonial authorities sought to control urban space along racially segregated lines, to create “the impression of constant surveillance” (2008: 84). Amílcar Cabral's account in 1960 of day-to-day life in Portugal's African colonies offered a resonant vignette of this spatial segregation: “cinemas, cafes, bars, restaurants and so on are almost exclusively frequented by Europeans. . . . Any African bold enough to enter one of these places must be prepared to face humiliation. . . . ‘Uncivilized’ Africans, especially in the towns, have to carry passes and open a 9.00 pm curfew. A wise assimilado always carries his identity card which, when accepted by the authorities and settles, is his only valid proof of being a human being” (1979: 23).
Surveillance operated in the metropole as well as in the colonies. In London, Lisbon, and Paris, Africans and Asians were routinely followed, watched, and arrested, monitored by police forces that kept extensive records of suspected dissidents. In Paris, as Clifford Rosenberg (2006) shows, the control of urban space became a fixation of the police, increasingly directed toward controlling and surveilling racialized immigrants. This logic gathered momentum in the interwar period. But the desire to “render the city transparent to the policeman's gaze” had its roots at least as far back as the eighteenth century, when the French police inspector Jacques-François Guillauté presented Louis XV with plans for a “giant wheel, thirty-six feet in circumference and three feet deep,” a grandiose pedal-operated filing system that would allow policemen to access information about everyone in the city without leaving their desks (Rosenberg 2006: 8, 17; see also Boittin 2015).
The response of anticolonialists was to evade surveillance, to duck and dive, to go underground, to speak in languages the censors could not understand (Reza 2022)—but also to imagine new forms of space. Césaire and Cabral, for example, found modes of writing about space that disavowed colonial assumptions: for them, space did not have to be viewed, assessed, and organized from a stable vantage point in classificatory and possessive terms (McKittrick 2006: xii). In Césaire's Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, the poetic voice imagines redrawing the world map and producing a new, “original geography” (1983: 77). Cabral wrote that decolonization would produce a “new human geography” (1976: 143). Anticolonialism, both Césaire and Cabral suggested, involved contestation not only over territory but also over the question of space itself. Several pieces in this issue try to articulate what new spaces and spatial imaginaries are produced by those who continue to arrive in Europe from the continent's former colonies.
Counter-Mobility: Ships, the Sea, the World
The long history of imperial attempts to control space help us understand why anticolonialists insisted so regularly on mobility. Mário Pinto de Andrade, the Angolan anticolonialist and cofounder of the MPLA, described how, in the 1950s, he and his fellow students would pass many hours in the Maritime Club in Lisbon: “Those sailors,” he said, “were also great messengers: they brought us messages, contacts, they brought us books from Brazil, if their boats and stopovers allowed” (De Andrade and Messiant 1999: 200). The trope of shipping and seafaring recurs in anticolonial writing of the twentieth century: from Ousman Sembène's semiautobiographical novel Black Docker; to Garan Kouyaté’s work with colonial seafarers in France; to George Padmore's report, in The Negro Worker, on the International of Seamen and Harbour Workers Congress (see Featherstone 2015). We could think, too, of more imaginative ship-work: of W. E. B Du Bois's unrealized dream to “charter a boat and hold the [fifth Pan-African] congress in the West Indies” ( 2014: 140), for example, or of the slave ship in Aimé Césaire's Notebook that “cracks everywhere” like the weary joints of the white world (1983:79).3
These ships remind us of the mobility (imaginative and physical) of twentieth-century anticolonial praxis, and the emphasis many anticolonialists placed on connection: not on delinking, in the popular term of contemporary decolonial writing, but on relinking a dispersed political community across the colonized and decolonizing world. The connective charge of anticolonial praxis assumed particular valency as a response to, and surpassing of, the deeply atomized and hierarchized ontology of the colonial “Manichean world” (Fanon 1963: 41). It was this whole world that anticolonial praxis conceptualized and aimed to transform (Younis 2022). The global reach of Europe's colonial-racial order made the problem of those subjected to that order “really part of a great world-wide problem,” as Hubert Harrison wrote in 1919 (Edwards 2003: 2).
By seeing colonialism as intrinsically global in ambition and reach, this anticolonial conception was coagulating. It understood British, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Belgian, German, Danish, and American colonialisms as, fundamentally—and notwithstanding their internecine conflicts—part of a shared project, or elements of what Charles Maier has called “imperial coalitions” (2012). We see this in, for example, Cheikh Anta Diop's argument that the “colonial powers are in league against us” (1955: 31) and the description of a Freetown-based columnist of the League of Nations as “the League of European Brotherhood” (Sierra Leone Weekly News1936). Colonial collusion was underwritten by a powerful White supremacy, or what W. E. B. Du Bois called “the income-bearing value of race prejudice” (1920: 649). It was the fact of a colonial coalition that necessitated an anticolonial collectivity. Thomas Sankara's declaration in 1984 that “a special solidarity unites the three continents of Asia, Latin America and Africa in the same battle against the same political traffickers and economic exploiters” would have resonated with virtually all anticolonialists over the previous eight decades (2007: 156).4
Thinking Europe's Southern Questions
We have outlined in some detail the key analytic moves undertaken in anticolonial thought in order to suggest how that thought might contribute to an understanding of Europe's present. The scalar dimensions to anticolonial thought—its agglomerative and global approach—can, when adapted to the current conjuncture, help us to reconsider how scales of international power operate.
First, the connective structuralism of anticolonial thought points to its enduring utility, not least because, as Edward Said reminded us, “imperialism did not end, did not suddenly become “past,’” but has remained bound to the present with a “legacy of connections” (Said 1994: 341). This principle operates in both analytic and normative modes: because empires are joined up, anticolonialists argued, liberationist movements must also forge connections. By rectifying the myopia that continues to define the horizon of social democratic and labor-based movements, this sense of linkage posits the expansive internationalist solidarities of a tradition that aimed toward “larger constellations of independence” beyond the state (Cabral 1979: xvii), and which expressed the injunction “decolonize the mind” only in relation to those larger constellations (Thiong'o 1992). One important outcome should be the repositioning of race and racism within this anticolonial way of seeing, resisting the current co-optive trend of seeing them as problems of the individual and isolated mind (see Younis 2022a).
Second, thinking about how mobility was always fraught, drastically uneven, and contested in European empires can help us to think more carefully about what precisely has changed in the shift from an imperial to a national arrangement. One clear evolution is a transition from a type of mobility regulation internal to empires to a type of regulation that—most prominently in the case of the European Union—brings together former imperial powers and their allies in a coalesced (but still at bottom nationally defined) system. In this complex configuration, the official principle of universalism whereby each state controls its own borders is belied by an overlaid structure of visa waivers, the variegating weighting of nationalities, and regional visa zones—all of which have the effect of overvaluing some forms of citizenship and vitiating others.
The anticolonial emphasis on counter-mobility helps us to consider the multiple ways in which movement across Europe's frontiers can be understood as definitive of the politics of Europe. As infrastructures of bordering thicken and calcify, today Europe musters at its frontiers a whole system of violent dissuasion: guards, passport controls, systems of biometric control and surveillance, military vessels, dogs, fences, patrols, and guns. Those who try to cross the continent's borders without authorization are turned away, shot, suffocated, drowned, arrested and imprisoned. We are reminded of how, as Césaire argued, colonialism works to “brutalize” the “colonizer” (2000: 35). Yet these borders remain permeable. Ever-easier crossing is facilitated for some. An understanding of mobility as differentiated and politicized can shed light on the “the aporia of border security practices” today, which positions “the “irregular” migrant as both a security threat and a threatened life in need of saving” (Sanyal 2017).
Third, the anticolonial idea of imperial collusion pushes us to consider the ways in which, from Mare Nostrum to Frontex, a logic of hierarchized intra-European solidarity co-opts elites in bordering countries to become complicit with the shoring up of Europe. With Italy and Libya, or Britain and Rwanda, official partnerships of equal states shed light on the deep stratification that continues to characterize the international system of mobility control. Nicholas De Genova rightly suggests that the contemporary European border regime represents the redrawing of the “colonial boundary between a European space largely reserved for Europeans only and the postcolonial harvest of centuries of European exploitation and subjugation” (2017: 1–36, 18).
Anticolonial thought shows how the politico-cultural genealogy of contemporary Europe's bordering regimes lies in the imperial history of the continent. This border-work, which is agile and able to draw on multiple forms of spatial division, often delegates the work of reception and brutal expulsion to Europe's own peripheralized South. Countries like Greece and Italy are “turned into so many holding pens, charged with filtering ‘migratory flows’ for the benefit of the richer and more powerful countries of Europe's west and north” (Kouvelakis 2018: 11). They are forced at the same time to undergo the kind of structural adjustment that makes Greece a kind of neo-colony even as it is also a complicit agent in the violent border-work of the EU. Different scales of inequality are, viewed through this lens, connected. The unevenness of power and wealth within Europe are part of the same logic of differentiation that exists between—and in an important sense creates—both Europe and its multiple Souths.
Both authors contributed equally to this article.
See, for example, the European Union's definition of its own “aims and values” on its website. https://european-union.europa.eu/principles-countries-history/principles-and-values/aims-and-values_en
For criticisms of the term crisis in this context, see Gilbert 2015; Goodman, Sirriyeh, and McMahon 2017; Krzyżanowski, Triandafyllidou, and Wodak 2018.
For the recurrence of ships in scholarship discussing the afterlives of enslavement, see Glover 2011; Sharpe 2016: chap. 2; Gilroy 2018.
Recent turns to the study of settler ideologies, migration, and race in imperial historiography have provided detailed evidence for imperial collusion. Historians of the Portuguese empire have shown how the relative poverty of the Portuguese economy—itself “an underdeveloped country,” as Cabral acidly pointed out —meant that the financing of its imperial project was, for example, often not Portuguese but rather happened by what Boaventura de Sousa Santos calls “delegation,” to (often British and French) private companies. And against the culturally neutral capitalism posited by nineteenth-century economic theory, historians of the British empire Gary Magee and Andrew Thompson have pointed to the “overwhelming evidence” of “non-economic considerations” in the construction of British imperial hierarchies. What they call a “cultural economy” brings together the seemingly abstract economic networks of finance, investment, and accounting that were fostered under British imperialism with dreams of racial replenishment; sentiments of White, Christian, male solidarity; and a geographical imagination that catalogued the world's populations the better to arrange and order them. European empires were thus stratified and animated by a spirit of delegated collusion (Cabral 1979: 20; Santos 2002: 9–43, 11; Magee and Thompson 2010: 6).