UCL European Institute


Black Europe

13 October 2021

A cross-disciplinary work-stream challenging the presumption of whiteness as the norm in the study of Europe.

[Black Europe]

With academic leads Hélène Neveu-Kringelbach and Jeff Bowersox, the UCL European Institute is embarking on a new workstream, [Black Europe]. It results from the recognition that academic work specifically dedicated to the study of Europe is still to a considerable extent focused on experiences or marked by presumptions of whiteness as the norm.

There is already excellent, discipline-spanning work on race, racialisation and postcolonialism across many departments at UCL. However, there is a critical need to address – explicitly – the lacunae, prevailing assumptions and biases of research on Europe, and to challenge the institutional dimensions flowing from them.

Academically, we envisage conceptual and empirical work on the constructions of race, nationhood, modernity, and their entanglements; on the legal, intellectual, cultural, artistic, and economic legacies of European colonialism and the slave trade; or on how ethnic and racial identities are shaped by, and indeed shape ideas of, Europe. This will include the task of revisiting central analytical concepts we are employing, including the title and scope that define the group itself.

Structurally, we want to explore formats of engagement in an academic environment marked by an ever-increasing workload, which balance the need for focused actions with the ambition to create an open, unforced space for interaction and keeping an open mind as to outcomes. While we do not neglect the idea of tangible legacies – be it in the form of an edited volume to offer cross-disciplinar perspectives for a range of research fields, in further teaching development, or in a grant application – the immediate aim is above all to offer an exploratory space and create synergies among academics from across the college, and beyond.

Institutionally, the conversation is expected to cover the wider ramifications of such a cluster of expertise for UCL as an institution, and specifically, for its study of Europe. From questions of peer development (and particularly support for ECRs) to supporting UCL’s commitment to hire 50 Black academics by 2024 and contributing to initiatives to decolonize curricula, the research cluster would also seek to develop good practice for the study of Europe at UCL.

Two dedicated research workshops in 2023, supported by the UCL Institute of Advanced Study, will foster a cluster of and conversation among UCL academics working in this field. These will be accompanied by a range of public and closed events with external guest speakers, as well as a as well as a range of audio and audiovisual resources.

Related links:

Workshop 1, 13 March 2023.

Podcast with Jeff Bowersox, African-American entertainers in pre-jazz Europe.