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Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies - European University Institute

Whiteness and the European project: an alternative account of the EU

In this book presentation, Hans Kundnani described the European Union as a “vehicle of imperial amnesia”, while exploring the ethnic and cultural dimension of European identity.

04 December 2023 | Event

On 21 November, Hans Kundnani, Associate Fellow at Chatham House, presented his new book ‘Eurowhiteness: Culture, Empire, and Race in the European Project’ at the EUI in front of, what he described as “probably the most pro-European audience”. The event was part of the ‘Europe in the World’ seminar series of the Global Governance Programme, organised by Stephanie Hoffman.

During the presentation, the author challenged the conventional view of the EU as an expression of cosmopolitanism. Instead, he characterised it as an expression of regionalism - a concept analogous to nationalism but on a larger continental scale. 

Kundnani explained why the EU has become a vehicle for colonial amnesia and how the ‘self-contained’ European history has been shaped. He elaborated that: From the 1960s onwards, the EU integrates the memory of the Holocaust into its narrative but forgets about the history of European colonialism…there is something structural about that, which is that the collective memory of the Holocaust is a memory that brings European countries together and focuses on the internal lessons of European history.”

He briefly walked the audience through the history of European identity, and how it has evolved from medieval and modern modern times, focusing on the ethnic and cultural ideas of Europe connected to Christianity and whiteness, forming, what he calls, “Eurowhiteness”. In light of the rise of far-right parties in Europe today, the author pointed out that we see narratives structured around religion and whiteness. More importantly, he said, we see how centre-right has been "mimicking the far-right ideas", on issues such as identity, migration, Islam. EUI’s Glenda Sluga, Miriam Mukalazi and Kalypso Nicolaidis stirred the discussion with insightful comments. 

Watch also the short video below where Kundnani explains the core message of his new book.

Interview with Hans Kundnani | Whiteness and the European Project

Last update: 05 December 2023

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