Months after Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and the election of President Donald Trump, guest lecturers from around the world discussed explanations for the global rise of xenophobia and Islamophobia and the proliferation of racial discourse in the United States during a symposium on Friday.
Hosted by the Minority, Indigenous and Third World Studies Research Group, the event included short presentations by international scholars on racial politics in the United Kingdom, Italy and India.
Contemporary attitudes toward Muslim culture and the perception of extremism are products of Western imperialism, said Prof. Arun Kundnani, media, culture and communication, New York University.
The imperialist lens is not limited to foreign or domestic Islamophobic policy but plays a role in shaping progressive calls to integrate Muslim culture into Western society, Kundnani said.
Prof. Miguel Mollino, University of Naples, focused on understanding the nuances of racism engendered by local pride in Italy to emphasize the overlooked complexities in issues regarding islamophobia and xenophobia.
Italy’s lack of self-awareness has made it difficult for the country to address pressing issues regarding treatment and abuse of European refugees and migrants, Mollino explained.
“[It is] difficult to struggle against [racial issues] when you cannot name things by what they are,” he said.
Prof. Priyamvada Gopal, English, University of Cambridge, spoke about the predictive power of comparative politics, alluding to several salient similarities between Indian and American politics.
Gopal drew comparisons to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion of “Hindu supremacy” and “white supremacy” and Modi and Trump’s rise to power through a majoritarian wave.
Trump and Modi’s rhetoric of economic inequality, identity politics, targeting of journalists and chauvinism share similarities, she said.
Gopal concluded her lecture urging people to resist and confront the rising islamophobia and xenophobia by reciting a verse by Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet.
“Being captured is beside the point, the point is not to surrender,” she quoted.