Review: Christopher Kyriakides in Ethnic and Racial Studies

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One of the central problems that has occupied scholars of racism in the British context has been that posed by the post-war implementation of racist immigration legislation and the subsequent institutionalization of negative racialized practices that this has legitimized across various sectors of the British state. For many anti-racist scholars and activists, a contradiction arises when those very same institutional sectors are bound to abide by anti-discrimination legislation, significantly when the public provision of ‘care’ is practised within the diminishing post-war welfare settlement. Understandably, this places anti-racists who work in the institutions of public-funded welfare, such as social work, in a precarious position, duty-bound to support people in ‘need’ but within the legislative parameters of a ‘racist state’. These are the principle concerns of Tom Vickers’ Refugees, Capitalism and the British State: Implications for Social Workers, Volunteers and Activists and I have no hesitation in recommending the book to readers of Ethnic and Racial Studies.

Vickers explains the dynamics of racialized reception through a Marxist analysis. Taking his cue, refreshingly, from neither the Stalinist nor the current pro-state Left, but from a Hegelian humanist orientation, Vickers emphasizes the imperialist roots of British racism – the form that national oppression takes within the domestic context of the oppressor nation – a view with which I am most sympathetic. Chapter 1 explains the relationship between capitalist competition, accumulation, crisis and imperial conquest, either directly through militarism or indirectly through interstate coercion, up-rooting those populations surplus to requirements, forcing them to seek ‘refuge’ elsewhere. Four further chapters plus the conclusion build on this framework through an extrapolation of the reception of refugees, defined as ‘all those who have come to Britain seeking refuge, whatever the status currently accorded them by the British state’ (1). The analysis draws usefully from original research carried out in Newcastle between 2005 and 2010, including case studies of migrant organizations and in-depth interviews with paid workers and refugee volunteers. Vickers packs a lot into his study, which strengthens his argument…

This is an extract from a review by Dr Christopher Kyriakides at the Cyprus University of Technology. Read the full review in Ethnic and Racial Studies or on Chris’s site, here.

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