Framing ethnic diversity as a 'threat' will normalise far-right hate, say academics

An open letter from academics opposed to the mainstreaming of far right ideas as open debate, such as the forthcoming debate with Claire Fox, David Aaronovitch, Trevor Phillips and academics Matthew Goodwin and Eric Kaufmann.

Academics for
23 October 2018

Source: Twitter / Fair use

On the 6th of December, a number of academics, journalists and commentators plan to take part in a ‘debate’ with the title and question: “Is Rising Ethnic Diversity a Threat to the West?”. They include Matthew Goodwin, Eric Kaufmann, Claire Fox, Trevor Phillips and David Aaronovitch, in an event sponsored by UnHerd and the Academy of Ideas (founded and run by Fox).

As academics and activists, we do not need to be convinced as to the importance of public debate. However, this debate was framed within the terms of white supremacist discourse. Far from being courageous or representative of the views of a ‘silent majority’, this is a reactionary, opportunistic and intentionally provocative approach, with no concern for the public implications and effect of this framing. By presupposing an ethnically homogenous ‘west’ in which ethnic diversity, immigration and multiculturalism are a ‘problem’ to be fixed, it automatically targets communities already suffering from discrimination as part of the ‘problem’.

To question the terms of a debate, and the public responsibility of those who host it, is not to ‘close down debate’. This debate shuts itself down, as no other alternative factor or scenario is identified as a ‘threat’, and it is hard to recognise much in the way of a diversity of opinion on a panel where most of the speakers are on the record as blaming immigration and multiculturalism for complex and multi-faceted social problems. The organisers may well defend this as a contribution to the ‘Marketplace of Ideas’, or to airing uncomfortable truths in the face of political correctness, but the racist presumptions and political resonance of how this debate was framed is undeniable. Public figures should consider how they provide these perspectives with a veneer of respectability when they take part in such events.

After much public criticism, the organisers changed the name to “Immigration and Diversity Politics: A Challenge to Liberal Democracy?”, removing “threat”, but still positioning immigration and diversity as the primary challenge to ‘our’ system. This was too little, too late: if the panel had serious academic intent, it would have chosen a different starting point and a very different – and more intellectually diverse – composition. To solely bring ethnicity and demographics to the table, in a pseudo-public debate legitimised with academic credentials, and with little or no consideration of the impact, contributes to far right ‘dog whistling’. Suggesting that immigration and ethnic diversity are somehow responsible for a “deepening and worrying polarisation” skews the agenda towards the far right and serves to normalise ideas that should be firmly challenged. This not only gives credence to far right ideas but diverts our attention away from falling levels of trust in ‘official’ politics and its inability to address the real concerns of their population, whether in relation to the economy, the environment or health.

To reiterate, we are not seeking to shut down debate or evade difficult arguments - these issues are widely discussed in academia and in public fora. We are simply asking that we do not give yet more ground to those who seek to shift the blame for systemic failures onto communities who are already subject to oppression and hostility, and legitimise hate and scapegoating as if that is analysis.

Signatories (in alphabetical order - for queries email: [email protected]):

Alakbarov, Fuad - Researcher

Allen, Steph - Bournemouth University

Amery, Fran - University of Bath

Andrews, Penny - University of Sheffield

Andricioaei, Catalina - European University Institute

Annetts, Jason - Abertay University

Aouragh, Miriyam - University of Westminster

Ashe, Stephen - Sociologist

Back, Les - Goldsmiths, University of London

Beaman, Jean - Purdue University

Bhambra, Gurminder K. - University of Sussex

Bhatia, Monish - Birkbeck, University of London

Billaud, Julie - University of Sussex

Blackman, Lisa - Goldsmiths, University of London

Bland, Benjamin - Royal Holloway, University of London

Boulila, Stefanie - University of Göttingen

Bowering, Bill - Birkbeck, University of London

Brown, Katy - University of Bath

Burley, Shane - Independent researcher

Byrne, Bridget - University of Manchester

Carrington, Ben - University of Southern California

Cecire, Natalia - University of Sussex

Chakraborti, Neil - University of Leicester

Ciccariello-Maher, George - Hemispheric Institute of Performance & Politics

Clark, Colin - University of the West of Scotland

Davies, Will – Goldsmiths, University of London

Dawson, Matt - University of Glasgow

de Noronha, Luke - Keele University and Birkbeck, University of London

Dean, Jonathan - University of Leeds

Desai, Manali - University of Cambridge

Dexter, Helen - University of Leicester

Doidge, Mark - University of Brighton

Dona, Giorgia - University of East London

El-Enany, Nadine - Birkbeck University of London

Evans, Elizabeth - Goldsmiths

Feldman, Matthew - Director of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR)

Fenton, Natalie - Goldsmiths, University of London

Finch, Helen - University of Leeds

Finchelstein, Federico - New School for Social Research, New York City

Fowlie, Craig - Routledge (personal capacity)

Freedman, Des - Goldsmiths

Froio, Caterina - Sciences Po, Paris

Galpin, Charlotte - University of Birmingham

Gardiner, Michaela - University of Strathclyde

Givens, Terri - Independent researcher

Gololobov, Ivan - University of Bath

Gopal, Priyamvada - University of Cambridge

Gordy, Eric - UCL

Grady, Jo - University of Sheffield

Hage, Ghassan - Melbourne University

Hall, Tim - University Centre Peterborough

Harries, Bethan - University of Manchester

Hatzisavvidou, Sophia - University of Bath

Hayton, Richard - University of Leeds

Haywood, Myshele - Grampian Regional Equality Council

Hjelm, Titus - UCL

Hund, Wulf D. - University of Hamburg

Ismail, Feyzi - SOAS University of London

Jackson, Paul - University of Northampton

Jackson, Stevi - University of York

James, Malcolm - University of Sussex

Jones, Hannah - University of Warwick

Joseph-Salisbury, Remi - University of Manchester

Keenan, Sarah - Birkbeck, University of London

Kenny, Merryl - University of Edinburgh

Khalili, Laleh - SOAS

Khan, Omar - Runnymede Trust

Khiabany, Gholam - Goldsmiths, University of London

Killeen, Nuala - Abertay University

Knox, Robert - University of Liverpool

Koelher, Daniel - Founding Director German Institute on Radicalization and De-Radicalization Studies (GIRDS)

Kokoli, Alexandra - Middlesex University London

Koulouris, Theodore - University of Brighton

Kundnani, Arun - New York University

Lentin, Alana - University of Western Sydney

Lentin, Ronit - TCD Emeritus

Liburd, Liam - University of Sheffield

Littler, Jo - City University

Lonie, Roddy - Abertay University

Lounasmaa, Aura - University of East London

Manchanda, Nivi - Queen Mary, University of London

Massoumi, Narzanin - University of Exeter

Mayer, Marian - Bournemouth University

McBride, Maureen - University of Glasgow

McGeever, Brendan - Birkbeck, University of London

McKie, Linda - University of Edinburgh

McLaughlin, Janice - Newcastle University

Meer, Nasar - University of Edinburgh

Meghji, Ali - University of Cambridge

Mehta, Akanksha - Goldsmiths, University of London

Middlemiss, Lucie - University of Leeds

Miller-Idriss, Cynthia - American University, Washington DC

Miller, Miriam - University of Sheffield

Mills, Tom - Aston University

Moffitt, Benjamin - Australian Catholic University

Mondon, Aurelien - University of Bath

Moon, David - University of Bath

Moore, John - Newman University

Moran, Marie - University College Dublin

Moreno Figueroa, Monica - University of Cambridge

Mudde, Cas - University of Georgia

Mullen, Ashli - University of Glasgow

Mullhall, Joe - Hope not Hate

Murji, Karim - University of West London

Narayan, John - Birmingham City University

Narayanaswamy, Lata - University of Leeds

Nava, Mica - University of East London

Nava, Orson - University of East London

Nijjar, Jasbinder S. - Brunel University London

Odmalm, Pontus - University of Edinburgh

Page, Tiffany - University of Cambridge

Panay, Andy - Abertay University

Parekh, Minesh - University of Sheffield

Parmar, Inderjeet - City University

Pavlovic, Srdja - UCL

Prentoulis, Marina - University of East Anglia

Rajan-Rankin, Sweta - University of Kent

Rashid, Naaz - University of Sussex

Reid Ross, Alexander - Portland State University

Renton, David - Garden Court Chambers

Reynolds, John - Maynooth University

Riaz, Nighet - University of the West of Scotland

Riemer, Nick - University of Sydney

Rutazibwa, Olivia U. - University of Portsmouth

Saha, Anamik - Goldsmiths, University of London

Saini, Rima - City University

Segal, Lynne - Birkbeck, University of London

Shilliam, Robbie - Johns Hopkins University

Sigona, Nando - University of Birmingham

Silvennoinen, Oula - University of Helsinki

Smith, Andrew - University of Glasgow

Smith, Evan - Flinders University

Solomon, Samuel - University of Sussex

Spratt, Tanisha - University of Cambridge

Squire, Corinne - University of East London

Sreberny, Annabelle - SOAS

Stocker, Paul - CARR

Sunshine, Spencer - Independent researcher

Tinsley, Meghan - University of Manchester

Titley, Gavan - Maynooth University

Tufail, Waqas - Leeds Beckett University

Valluvan, Sivamohan - University of Warwick

Virdee, Satnam - University of Glasgow

Vráblíková, Kateřina - University of Bath

Wearing, David - Royal Holloway, University of London

Wells, Karen - Birkbeck, University of London

Whyte, David - University of Liverpool

Wiggen, Mette - University of Leeds

Wilding, Polly - University of Leeds

Williamson, Milly - Goldsmiths, University of London

Winter, Aaron - University of East London

Wodak, Ruth - Lancaster University, Emeritus

Woodman, Sophia - University of Edinburgh

Work, Hazel - Abertay University

Yabancy, Bilge - Stockholm University

Yuill, Chris - Robert Gordon University

Yuval-Davis, Nira - University of East London

Zempi, Irene - Nottingham Trent University

Zuberi, Nabeel - University of Auckland

New signatories (updated 29th October 2018)


Adams, Nessa - Regent's University London

Adams, Ruth - King's College London

Atkins, Judi - Aston University

Azarmandi, Mahdis - DePauw University

Bailey, Dan - University of Manchester

Baker, Catherine - University of Hull

Barcia, Manuel - University of Leeds

Bayman, Louis - University of Southampton

Bell, David - Loughborough University

Bento, Katucha - University of Leeds

Bergin, Cathy - University of Brighton

Bracke, Maud - University of Glasgow

Brecher, Bob - University of Brighton

Brophy, David - University of Sydney

Busher, Joel - Coventry University

Carvalho, João - ISCTE-Lisbon University Institute

Clark, Ian - University of East London

Connelly, Laura - University of Salford

Cornford, Tom - The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London

Crines, Andrew - University of Liverpool

Dawes, Simon - Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

Donoghue, Matthew - University of Oxford

Doytcheva, Milena - University of Lille

Evans, Daniel - Cardiff University Centre for Lifelong Learning

Fanning, Bryan - University College Dublin

Fink, Eric - Elon University

Flectcher, Ruth - Queen Mary, University of London

Fremlova, Lucie - Central European University

Foster, John - Feature editor at SEN

Gidley, Ben - Birkbeck, University of London

Gonzalez-Correa, Monica - Monitor Racism-European University Institute

Göpffarth, Julian - CARR

Hampshire, James - University of Sussex

Henning, Michell - University of West London

Herbert, Emilie - University of Liège

Hobson, Tom - University of Bath

Holmwood, John - University of Nottingham

Isakjee, Arshad - University of Liverpool

Jones, Daniel - University of Northampton

Kerrigan, Dylan - University of West Indies

Knott, Andy - University of Brighton

Lewandowsky, Marcel - Helmut Schmidt University/University of the Federal Armed Forces

Lewicki, Aleksandra - University of Sussex

Liinpää, Minna - University of Glasgow

Lumsden, Karen - University of Leicester

Mac Éinrí, Piaras - University College Cork

Meacham, Jess - University of Sheffield

Munawar, Nabila - London School of Economics

Natarajan, Nithya - Royal Holloway, University of London

Newman, Joe - Goldsmiths, University of London

Nye, Malory - Universities of Glasgow and Stirling

O'Carroll, Aileen - Maynooth University

Pedro-Carañana, Joan - Saint Louis University - Madrid

Pesarini, Angelica - NYU-Florence

Piacentini, Teresa - University of Glasgow

Pitcher, Ben - The University of Westminster

Pytlas, Bartek - LMU Munich

Renton, James - Edge Hill University

Rosamond, Ben - University of Copenhagen

Shamshiri, Marral - London School of Economics and Political Science

Siapera, Eugenia - Dublin City University

Stamboliev, Eugenia - Plymouth University

Turner, Lewis - Arnold Bergstraesser Institute

Valenta, Markha - Radboud University

van Kessel, Stijn - Queen Mary, University of London

van Krieken, Robert - University of Sydney

Vincent, Alana - University of Chester

Whitham, Ben - De Montfort University

Wibben, Annick - University of San Francisco

Yeo, Rebecca - University of Bath

Yilmaz, Ferruh - Tulane University


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