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A new wave of antiracism in Europe?  An intergenerational conversation with Philomena Essed

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As part of the academic workshop ‘A second wave of antiracism in Europe?’ and the Fighting Racism lecture series, we are honoured to have Philomena Essed in this intergenerational conversation discussing a new wave of antiracism in Europe. 

‘We are witnessing the force and momentum of what can be called a new, second wave of Dutch anti- racism, since the 1980s’ writes Philomena Essed in 2014. Whilst Essed writes about Dutch developments during the past decade, we can observe similar developments elsewhere in Europe. The Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 and far earlier calls to act against islamophobia, to decolonize museums, public spaces and educational institutions all evidence the resurgence of race and racism as a topic forcefully entering public and political debates. To what extent do European countries experience a second, third of fourth wave of antiracism? Was there ever a first wave? If yes, how do these waves compare? Who is doing the organizing during different waves of antiracism, around which claims and what are the means of struggle? What is their theoretical inspiration, and what are the characteristics of the ensuing public debates on racism?
These and many other questions will be discussed by Philomena Essed and three other antiracist activists from different generations and parts of Europe: Latifah Abdou (#WeDecolonizeVUB, Belgium), Inès Seddiki (Gett'up, France) and Jelena Jovanovic (coordinator of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup, former representative of ERGO Network). Jean Beaman (UC Santa Barbara) provides an introduction to the event and Mariska Jung (VUB) moderates the conversation. 

Philomena Essed is a professor of Critical Race, Gender, and Leadership Studies at Antioch University’s Graduate School of Leadership and Change and an affiliated researcher for Utrecht University’s Graduate Gender program. She is most known for having introduced the concept ‘everyday racism’, which has become a key contribution to the study of racism.  Her work has been translated in multiple languages and applied in many countries. Her publications span decades, including the now classical publications: Alledaags Racisme in 1984 (Published in English as Everyday Racism: Reports from Women of Two Cultures in 1990) and republished in Dutch in 2018, as well as the book Understanding Everyday Racism: An interdisciplinary Theory published in 1991. Her latest books include Dutch Racism (2014) and Relating Worlds of Racism: Dehumanization, Belonging, and the Normativity of European Whiteness (2018).
Essed has a lifelong commitment to social justice. She has been an advisor to governmental and non-governmental organizations, nationally and internationally. As an expert witness on race, gender and racism in Europe she presented among others at the United Nations, the European Parliament and the United States Helsinki Commission (Capitol Hill, Washington, 2008) and the EU Parliament hearing on Afrophobia (Brussels, 2014). She is a founding faculty member of the very successful international Black Europe Summer School (2008-) where she offers yearly courses on the broad theme of ‘Racism and Xenophobia: Causes and Consequences’, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In 2011 The Queen of the Netherlands honored her with a Knighthood.

Latifah Abdou is a founding member of #WeDecolonizeVUB (Belgium), a student initiative of UCOS (University Center for Development Cooperation) that provides tools to students to learn about (de)colonization and anti-racism in order to actively dismantle Western-dominated world view. WeDecolonizeVUB also aims at making the VUB a better and safer place for racialized students, by creating space that tackles sensitive topics and makes room for students to meet. They founded a library that provides books of non-Western and racialized authors and they further organize events and mobilize for racial justice at VUB and beyond. All these activities and initiatives are carried out by a diverse group of students that form the beating heart of the project. Abdou further regularly exchanges and mobilizes with similar student initiatives striving for racial justice in other Flemish universities. Abdou obtained a Master’s degree in European and International Governance at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and currently studies African history at Ghent University. Together with Tundé Adefioye, she is conducting a pilot study on the possibility and relevance of establishing a Master in Critical Ethnic/Liberation/Black Studies at the VUB.
Inès Seddiki is the founder of GHETT’UP, a grassroots organization aiming at fostering social, economic and environmental justice in the banlieue of Paris. The organization's goals is to challenge the current narrative around the youth of the banlieues, mostly of immigrant descent, to build capacity, agency and youth empowerment in the communities, and challenge leaders and decision makers for more equality. Since 2016, more than 5000 youth have benefited from the organization's program. Seddiki is also a journalist and directed the web-documentary Nos, about what it means to be a child of immigrant parents in France in 2021. 

Jelena Jovanovic is coordinating the work of Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) in the European Parliament, assisting the ARDI Bureau Members of the European Parliament. This includes policy work, awareness raising, education and allying with different actors such as the European Commission and civil society. Before ARDI, she worked as a Policy Coordinator in a Brussels-based NGO – European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network. Between Serbia, where she was born, and Belgium, she spent a few years in Budapest, working in a policy research centre of her alma mater – Central European University. She published on intersection of gender and ethnicity and policy narratives, focusing mostly on experiences of Romani women. Her latest publication is a 2019 book that she co-edited, titled “The Romani Women’s Movement: Struggles and Debates in Central and Eastern Europe”.

Make sure to register for this panel discussion through this link.

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This event is organized by the academic workshop ‘A second wave of antiracism in Europe?’ supported by BIRMM, BSoG, EDGE and RHEA at the VUB together with the VUB module Redelijk Eigenzinnig

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