UCL European Institute


[Black Europe]

25 April 2024

A cross-disciplinary work-stream critically addressing gaps, and challenging the presumption of whiteness as the norm, in the study of Europe.

[Black Europe] Collage

With academic leads Hélène Neveu-Kringelbach and Jeff Bowersox, the UCL European Institute is developing a workstream on [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 excellent, discipline-spanning work on race, racialisation and postcolonialism across many departments at UCL, as well as outstanding work on European history, politics, economics, humanities and law. 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 want to support conceptual and empirical work on the constructions of race, nationhood, modernity, and their entanglements in Europe; 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, encouraging discussion and collaboration across disciplinary borders.

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. Alongside working to advance established academic formats – a speaker series, publications, teaching development, and grant applications – we want to offer an ongoing exploratory space and create synergies among academics from across the college, and beyond.

Institutionally, we want to leverage insights from this cluster of expertise to inform conversations on UCL as an institution, specifically the way it organises research and teaching on 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 [Black Europe] cluster will also seek to develop good practice for the study of Europe at UCL.

We are grateful for the support and partnership from the UCL Institute of Advanced Study, the UCL School of European Languages, Culture and Society, and the Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies at SOAS.

The workstream is part of our Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence (2023-26) programme, co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme European Union.

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