Research seminar Humanitarian Geographies of Whitness: Entanglements of race, immobility and care

Dr. Polly Pallister-Wilkins (University of Amsterdam) will give a research seminar informed by her ethnographic work on humanitarianism and the European border regime.


In this paper I explore humanitarianism’s relationship to what WEB Du Bois called ‘whiteness’ or what we might today call, white supremacy, the (re)production of the global colour line and unequal racialised regimes of mobility. Through this exploration I bring both a historical focus and a sensitivity to the politics of race to bear on my earlier research on humanitarian borderwork which focused on the contemporary period. In exploring humanitarianism’s role in the historic and contemporary (re)production of racialised geographies, I focus on ameliorative practices in plantation economies and settler colonies that responded to the revolutionary potential and white fears of liberated and mobile Black bodies and their ‘imperial duress’ in modern practices of European ‘Hotspots’ and externalisation efforts aimed at ‘Protecting Our European Way of Life’. In making visible these entanglements of humanitarianism, white supremacy, and regimes of (im)mobility across time and space I draw on the work of British colonial administrator George Arthur in Honduras and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and the current European Union’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.



Polly Pallister-Wilkins is a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Amsterdam and Scientific Collaborator at L’Université Libre de Bruxelles. She has been researching humanitarianism in Greece’s borderlands since 2012 and is a principal investigator in the Horizon2020 ADMIGOV project examining humanitarian protection in response to border violence and the Swedish Research Council funded project ‘Outsourcing Migration Control: Externalising EU Borders to ‘Africa’’.


John Vincke Room, Campus Aula (Korte Meer 5, Gent)21/02/2020 14:00 - 16:0014
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