Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Old racisms, New masks: On the Continuing Discontinuities of Racism and the Erasure of Race in European Contexts


Discourses on racism in Europe have largely been dominated by a US-centric lens that serves to universalize the North American experience of racism. This decenters the different historical and geographical experiences European contexts have had with continuing racist legacies as well as the multiple ways in which anti-racism can challenge such legacies. It also allows European societies to continue to construct a self-image that displaces racism onto other geographical contexts or isolates it as a purely historical phenomenon. In order to reveal and counter the mechanisms of this displacement and isolation, we want to argue that three specific socio-historical developments have produced distinctive articulations of racism that differ significantly from North American understandings of both race and anti-racism. Whereas in the US context, where the post-race discourse is constituted by a speaking through race, dominant European socialities either detach from race as a social category of domination and/or interpret it as a historical phenomenon.

By unpacking the construction of a national imaginary that erases racism, interrogating the assumed turn from biological to what is sometimes referred to as cultural racism, and examining the (bio)politics of the welfare state, we aim to elucidate modern forms of European racism that call into question the view of Europe as not a racist space. Drawing specifically on the contexts of France, the Netherlands and Germany, we demonstrate the importance of conceptualizing racism as an intersectional, dynamic phenomenon bound to spatial and temporal meanings and signifiers. In the process, we reveal the ways race and racism formulate themselves differently within European spaces over and against the United States in order to challenge the silence about race in Europe and transnationalize our understandings of the various articulations of racism in different socio-historical contexts.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View