Racialized Affectivities of (Un)Belonging: Mixed (Race) Couples in the Shadow of Brexit
3. Melancholic British Whiteness
4. Ordinariness of Racism
it became about, “Well we have too many foreigners here.” And it’s like, we’ve been hearing this stuff every time there’s a general election, since we really started to have mass immigration, the post-war years, we have this all the time.
because the British Government invited people—so there was less work back at home, and opportunities here. So, they were able to come, the restrictions hadn’t started yet on immigration, and as my mum will always point out, she came here as—I think she was a British subject, not a British citizen but she had a British passport, which obviously was the key thing.30
5. Mistrust in the UK State
They introduced the scheme [Fresh Talent—Working in Scotland Scheme] around the time of my PhD and the idea was to attract students to stay in Scotland. The thing is that there are not many jobs in Scotland and you know, if you really wanted to develop your career, you would probably think about moving to London. So, I didn’t stay in Scotland. I moved to London and that is when the visa issues started […] They [her employers] applied for a work permit, but when I was applying for my residency, they rejected it, because they said I should have actually stayed in Scotland. I should not have been working in London for more than a year or something like that.
So, because I was with Gianluca for so long, I applied as his partner, even if we weren’t married then. […] Unfortunately, I had to wait two and a half years to get that and during that time, I could not leave the country. So that was the worst, absolute worst time of my life. It was horrible.
This was not a UK document, […] it was an EU permit that they were accepting, so to apply for that, she had to send the passport to the Home Office for all the time it needed, which was six months or so, or a year maybe.
Gianluca: As I said before, you did not have to.Kaylah: I did not have to, but I did…Gianluca: Yeah, you did because you wanted to but you didn’t have to…it had nothing to do with Brexit.Kaylah: I got a bit nervous because I don’t know if they will change the regulations again.Gianluca: Yeah, but they cannot change… I had it too. The only thing I did, I applied…
It is just this [document]. Just this thing that cost…it cost one hundred pounds. So, I never had to do this [before Brexit]. Some people did it, straight away. And I didn’t have to do it… I do not have to do it right now [either], but I just decided to do it. So, this basically allows me to work forever in the UK without any visa. Or just live… even if I just want to live here. For example, another EU citizen, after Brexit, […] if he does not have that, he won’t be able to stay.
So, I will tell you another reason I applied for the passport. Because the residence permit, I had, was based off of Gianluca being an EU citizen. Now if the UK Brexited, my visa wouldn’t apply, my permit would not apply anymore. So, I said, ‘What is the point of reapplying for this when I can apply for my passport?’ […] So, I did it before Brexit […] in case the rules changed. And I mean, when Zachary [their son] was born, I immediately applied for a British passport for him. Gianluca applied for the Italian passport and he said, ‘Why did you apply for the British passport?’ ‘I do not know. The regulations might change. I have no idea.’ So that is why I did it, and I am glad I did it because maybe he might have had some issues now. I don’t know, right?
6. Heightened Alertness
I think a lot of Saint Lucians, especially my generation, we tend to leave Saint Lucia for periods of time. So, the idea would be that you would move out of Saint Lucia to work or to study. Some people go back, some people form relationships and then stay behind and stay in Europe. But I think also, growing up as a gay person in the Caribbean, even if at the time I was in Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia was still quite open and accepting, you still feel like you need to explore the rest of the world because the gay community is so small in the Caribbean.
I remember in my early-20s, on the gay scene in London, you always came across racism within the gay scene. Always either, the first thing people would say, [was] “Oh, you are black, you are either looking for a rich husband” or “you’re black, you can’t afford anything.”
Well, no, not exactly. But I think you know that when hate speech is on the rise and legitimized by certain politicians, that might be directed at the EU or immigrants one minute, but you can be damn sure it’s going to come around to gays next!
Yeah, but also, I think whenever there is even a hint of hate speech or segregation, or whatever, I think you pick it up much quicker and you analyze it much quicker, and think, “OK, this person is really trying to erase…”
I suppose I am very aware of the Second World War because my father was always very…he talked about it a lot, he is a historian and he is interested in those things. He also lost both of his brothers in the war so, emotionally, it was a very present thing. And…so that sense of how easily things can degenerate into a terrible conflict is something I’ve always been made aware of as I grew up. And… to me, it’s terrifying to see the irresponsibility of people like Trump and Farage.
Conflicts of Interest
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Drawing from Marxian and psychoanalytic approaches, Sarah Ahmed describes affect as a ‘form of capital’ emerging from the circulation, distribution and unequal accumulation of emotions ‘across a social as well as psychic field.’ (Ahmed 2004, p. 120), The resulting ‘affective economy’ produces and surfaces ‘bodies and worlds’ (ibid., p. 117) which are discursively organized through alignment and disavowal. She develops this concept by focusing on the circulation of hate and fear in white supremacist and xenophobic discourses, as the binding together of white bodies and the nation contextually produces the alignment and disavowal of bodies racialized as not-white.
‘Freedom of movement and residence for persons in the EU is the cornerstone of Union citizenship, established by the Treaty of Maastricht [Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union] in 1992.’ (Marzocchi 2020).
‘By 2014, movement to the UK by EU citizens had overtaken annual non-EU net migration and by 2015 it had reached nearly 350,000 per annum.’ (Dennison and Geddes 2018, p. 1145). Moreover, ‘69 % of EU citizens residing in the UK arrived in the past five years.’ (Grütters et al. 2018, p. 24).
Without the UK, the EU consists of twenty-seven Member States (MS)—hence the term ‘EU-27’.
Jin Haritaworn speaks of ‘interracialized’ (Haritaworn 2012) intimacies, thereby stressing the processual (versus ontological) character of this category as well as of the ‘races’ object of the purported ‘mix’. Although I acknowledge and share their critique, in this paper I maintain the terms ‘interraciality’ and ‘interracial’ for their wider use both in the scholarship I refer to, and among the subjects of my research.
Such prevalence of heterosexual couples partly reflects the belated legalization of same-sex marriage in the US, Europe and most parts of the globe. Researchers’ focus on married couples (see for example Benson 1981; Osuji 2014; Roberts 2018), therefore, could not but exclude from purview unions which were denied access to this rite.
See for example Simon’s discussion on the implications of Europe’s ‘failure’ to import ethno-racial statistics (Simon 2017), and Gunaratnam’s upholding of the usefulness of the UK census racial and ethnic categories (despite their approximation) in ‘examining and in challenging inequalities, particularly in public services’ (Gunaratnam 2003, p. 16).
Analogously, Peter Aspinall indicates that although the term ‘mixed race’ remains widely contested in academia due to the underlying ontological assumption of there being more than one ‘race’, it maintains currency in the absence of a term better able at reflecting subjects’ self-identification (Aspinall 2009; see also Bauer et al. 2012, p. 5).
Note that these two categories often overlap, as cultural differences tend to be both essentialized (as nature) and territorialized within national (or continental) borders. Speaking of England in the 1970s, Susan Benson for example observed: ‘For many of those entering interracial unions, as for the English in general, it proved difficult to escape the predisposition to associate culture with nature, and nature with the fact of colour.’ (Benson 1981, p. 149).
For example, it made it harder to have interviews with Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) living in families of choice, and with working-class mixed (race) couples.
From a quantitative, statistics-based research perspective, the snowballing technique (i.e., the practice of asking research participants to suggest prospect ones—see, e.g., Noy 2008) is seen as leading to a ‘selection bias’ vis-à-vis use of a randomized sample. Nevertheless, not only does the latter also embed a selection bias (due to non-response), but on a broader level, the sampling logic and language do not pertain to ethnographic research (Small 2009). Hence, ‘“bias” is the wrong term. What an in-depth interviewer with three dozen respondents faces is not a “bias” problem but a set of cases with particular characteristics that, rather than being ‘controlled away’, should be understood, developed, and incorporated into her understanding of the cases at hand.’ (ibid., p. 14). In this article, I do so by grounding my interpretation work in the participant’s biography, and in the (race, gender, social class and sexuality) position which they occupied at the time of the interview.
Before commencement the research received ethical clearance (24 May 2018) from the Ethics Committee of Juridical and Criminological Research of the Faculty of Law, VU Amsterdam.
Dorling observed that ‘most people who voted Leave lived in the south of England. Furthermore, of all those who voted for Leave, 59% were in the middle classes (A, B, or C1).’ (Dorling 2016). Nevertheless, the stigmatization of the working class implicit in their association with the pro-Brexit position, e.g., as less educated and more parochial, is consistent with sedimented ‘white middle- and ruling-class attempts to pathologize and racialize them as an underclass.’ (Garner 2007, p. 73).
A detailed timeline is available at: https://www.cer.eu/brexit-timeline. Accessed on 15 May 2020.
Some of these were ‘The People’s Vote March for the Future’ (20 October 2018) and the ‘Put it to the People’ march (23 March 2019), both held in London and with participation esteemed at several hundred thousand people.
The Act introduced the concept of ‘patriality’, which restricted the right to enter, live and work in the British islands to British subjects who could demonstrate a genealogical connection by virtue of being born in the UK or having at least a parent or grandparent who had. At that time, this criteria effectively implied whiteness (Paul 1997).
.The Parliament’s European Communities Act 1972 came into effect on 1 January 1973. The EEC is the precursor of the EU.
For example ‘[t]here were cases of Asian women arriving in Britain subjected to ‘virginity tests’ (Brah 1996, p. 38), which authorities used to assess the authenticity of the marriage they were about to enter (Wray 2006, p. 306).
In this writing, he also refers to it as ‘post-imperial’ melancholia.
In EU policy debates, EU nationals’ migration within the EU is generally referred to as ‘intra-EU mobility’ and it is discussed separately from other forms of international migration involving ‘third country nationals’ (TCN), i.e., non-EU citizens https://www.understandfreemovement.eu/article/distinction-between-migration-and-mobility/. Accessed on 22 April 2020.
See for example the infamous ‘Breaking point’ poster: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/16/nigel-farage-defends-ukip-breaking-point-poster-queue-of-migrants. Accessed on 25 April 2020.
Announced in 2012, the policy ‘tasked the NHS, landlords, banks, employers and many others with enforcing immigration controls.’ https://www.jcwi.org.uk/windrush-scandal-explained. Accessed on 21 May 2020.
Partly, this was due to the fact that many ‘arrived as children on their parents’ passports, and that the Home Office destroyed thousands of landing cards and other records.’ https://www.jcwi.org.uk/windrush-scandal-explained. Moreover, Section 3(8) of the Immigration Act 1971 placed the burden of proof on individuals: ‘When any question arises under this Act whether or not a person is a British citizen [or otherwise has the right of abode] ... it shall lie on the person asserting it to prove that he [sic] is.’ (UK Government 1971).
They had to produce, in front of the Home Office, at least ‘one official document from every year they had lived’ in the country. https://www.jcwi.org.uk/windrush-scandal-explained. Accessed on 21 May 2020.
I interviewed them both on 26 April 2019, but separately.
For example, speaking of her own and her brother’s early years at school, she said that teachers ‘did everything they could to suppress you.’
Drawing on Bourdieu’s concept of ‘habitus’ (Bourdieu 1984), Bonilla-Silva defined ‘white habitus’, one which ‘creates and conditions [whites’] views, cognitions, and even sense of beauty and, more importantly, fosters a sense of racial solidarity.’ (Bonilla-Silva 2018, p. 140). Here, I expand on this notion by suggesting to include also whites’ perception of inalienable entitlement to unrestrained mobility in space and permanence in place.
I interviewed Alesha and her husband Giovanni separately, respectively, on 2 May and 15 April 2019.
Possession of this document allowed the mother to demonstrate the lawfulness of her presence in Britain under the conditions established by the Hostile Environment policy (see under ‘Melancholic British whiteness’).
The British Election Study found that ‘29% of Black adults and 32% of Asian adults voted Leave’ (Swales 2016, p. 7). A public opinion report observed that Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people who voted Leave ‘raised concerns about immigration, particularly Eastern European, which they felt increased pressures on public services and strained community relations.’ (Begum 2018, p. 10).
In April 2018 the naturalization fee was increased to £1330 per person: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/visa-regulations-revised-table/home-office-immigration-and-nationality-fees-2018. Accessed on 27 May 2020.
Before the UK decided to leave the EU, EU nationals’ legal rights to settlement in the UK were defined by the EU Citizenship Directive. Hence, they did not have strong incentives to enter into a ‘formal path to permanent settlement and naturalization’ (Moreh et al. 2020, p. 2).
Joint interview, 3 May 2019.
Philippe recalled that there used to be ‘a lot of mixed couples, because there were a lot of Irish people married into the black Caribbean community.’
The Civil Partnership Act came into nationwide effect on 5 December 2005. The legalization of same-sex marriage took place several years after, and at different times in different parts of the UK. In England and Wales it was legalized in March 2014.
In 1967, the Sexual Offences Act decriminalized in England and Wales homosexual acts in private between two men aged 21 and above (UK Government 1967). The equalization of the age of consent with that for heterosexual and female same-sex happened only in 2000, with the Sexual Offences (Amedment) Act (Kollman and Waites 2011, p. 189).
For example, the Local Government Act 1988, Section 28 (‘Prohibition on promoting homosexuality by teaching or by publishing material’), established that local authorities ‘shall not (a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality; (b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.’ (UK Government 1988). This legislation was accompanied by media campaigns indicting and outing homosexual teachers (and also other public workers) for their role and position supposedly constituted a danger for the ‘healthy’ reproduction of the nation (Moran and Skeggs 2004, p. 7).
They voted by post.
Moreover, Hubbard notes that many of the rights which ‘lesbian, gay and bisexually-identified individuals’ have had recognized in the UK since the 2000s ‘have been secured with reference to citizenships negotiated at the EU level, with the UK incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights (1950) in the UK Human Rights Act 1998 (UK Government 1998).’ (Hubbard 2013, p. 225).
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Zambelli, E. Racialized Affectivities of (Un)Belonging: Mixed (Race) Couples in the Shadow of Brexit. Genealogy 2020, 4, 83. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy4030083
Zambelli E. Racialized Affectivities of (Un)Belonging: Mixed (Race) Couples in the Shadow of Brexit. Genealogy. 2020; 4(3):83. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy4030083Chicago/Turabian Style
Zambelli, Elena. 2020. "Racialized Affectivities of (Un)Belonging: Mixed (Race) Couples in the Shadow of Brexit" Genealogy 4, no. 3: 83. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy4030083