Hello dear Reza


So begins the letter sent by detainees of Manus Island detention centre to their friend, Reza Berati, killed by his jailers, the agents of the Australian state one year ago today on the 17th of February, 2014. No one has yet stood trial for his murder, just as no one has been charged for the death of another of his friends, Hamid Khazaei who died of a treatable infection in September last year, due to the negligence of private medical staff.

#NothingLikeAustralia Campaign

#NothingLikeAustralia Campaign

Today, the sky over Sydney was emblazoned with the words Shut Down Manus as activists commemorated the first year anniversary of Reza’s useless death. Groups all over the world are holding vigils and protests, others are disrupting sporting events such as the Cricket World Cup currently being hosted in Australia. The #NothingLikeAustralia campaign is repurposing the Australan tourism industry’s slogan to highlight Australia’s particular cruelty to asylum seekers. The world can no longer ignore the fact that Australia, a rich country is holding 2,000 people in offshore detention camps, outsourced to its poor regional neighbours – Nauru, Papua New Guinea and soon, Cambodia: cash for asylum seekers, if you will.

xb_history2But, while Australian liberals demand to know ‘What Have We Become?’, presaging an idea that, as the hashtag goes, #We’reBetterThanThis, the reality is that mandatory detention for asylum seekers, both on- and offshore has become a billion dollar global industry in which the stakes are too high to lose. Transfield, the company that runs the concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru alone has a $2.1 billion contract with the government. Serco, the British company which huge stakes in the global private prison business and Wilson Security are other big players in the game. But the NGO sector too has its role to play with organisations such as the Salvation Army and Save the Children all having had their hand in. Those of us who work at Australian universities and are mandated to invest for our retirement through the universities superannuation fund, UniSuper, may have been shocked to learn that it had significant shares in both Transfield and another company with a stake in mandatory detention, Decmil.  UniSuper has since sold its shares in Transfield, but has not committed not to reinvest in the future. Meanwhile the health workers’ superannuation fund, HESTA has become a substantial shareholder in Transfield, effectively lending Transfield millions of dollars of their members’ money: doctors and nurses.

The campaign to end mandatory detention, therefore, needs to hold many lines: changing public opinion with actions such as today’s skywriting, the disruptions of sporting events, and the protests and vigils. But it also demands the less spectacular approach of making the case of divestment from the mandatory detention industry, as was seen with the boycott of the 19th Sydney Biennale in 2014, through the call for HESTA and others to divest. Australia will only feel the pressure to dismantle mandatory detention when international pressure shames it into doing so. Ultimately, there will be the need for a boycott.

Most importantly, calling for inquiries, Royal Commissions, or access to the detention centres for journalists and politicians will not end mandatory detention. Bringing asylum seekers as effective indentured labour onshore – the euphemistically named Tasmania Opportunity – as was proposed by the campaigner Julian Burnside and supported by the Green Party too, is not equatable to ensuring freedom of movement. Either we believe that all human beings have the right to move, to seek a better life in the country of their choosing or we do not. There is nothing to justify the detention of any innocent person from anywhere in the world; the only justification is racism.

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Politics in the Pub

Politics in the pubI will be participating in Politics in the Pub, speaking on the topic ‘Islamophobia in Australia: The politics of race hate in neoliberal Australia’ on February 19 2015. The other speakers are Yassir Morsi and Jock Collins. The event is held at the Harold Hotel, Glebe and begins at 18.30. I hope to see you there.

Update:

Here is the text of my talk from last Thursday’s event. A video will be made available soon. Continue reading

Post-Race, Post-Politics among ‘most read’ for 2014

honouredI was pleased to find out that my article, ‘Post-Race, Post Politics: the paradoxical rise of culture after multiculturalism’ made the list of ‘most-read’ articles among Taylor and Francis journals. The article was published in Ethnic and Racial Studies in which I have two more articles appearing over the next while. The full text of my article is available online and the full list of most-read articles is available here.

My Comment on ‘Blood’ by Gil Anidjar

I was asked to participate in an event recently organised by the Philosophy @ UWS initiative, Encountering the Author, a discussion of Blood: A Critique of Christianity by the Columbia University Professor of Religion and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Gil Anidjar. I could not attend but produced a recording of my commentary which can be heard here.

I found the book absolutely fascinating but I wanted to discuss what implications thinking with blood has for race critical and decolonial scholarship or, in other words, what does Blood add to race?

Critical comments welcomed.

 

New Book: Racism & Sociology

Racism and SociologyMy new edited collection, Racism and Sociology, co-edited with Wulf D. Hund is out.  It is part of the Racism Analysis Yearbook series published by Lit Verlag. The book includes cutting edge papers by Les Back and Maggie Tate, Sirma Bilge, Barnor Hesse, Silvia Maeso and Marta Araujo and Felix Losing in addition to Wulf and I.

Contents: Wulf D. Hund: Racism in White Sociology. From Adam Smith to Max Weber – Alana Lentin: Postracial Silences. The Othering of Race in Europe – Felix Lösing: From the Congo to Chicago. Robert E. Park’s Romance with Racism – Les Back, Maggie Tate: Telling About Racism. W.E.B. Du Bois, Stuart Hall and Sociology’s Reconstruction – Barnor Hesse: Racism’s Alterity. The After-Life of Black Sociology – Sirma Bilge: Whitening Intersectionality. Evanescence of Race in Intersectionality Scholarship – Silvia Rodríguez Maeso, Marta Araújo: The Politics of (Anti-)Racism. Academic Research and Policy Discourse in Europe

ACRAWSA Conference 2014

State of Race Panel I. Photo courtesy of ACRAWSA

State of Race Panel I. Photo courtesy of ACRAWSA

I just got back from Brisbane where I co-coordinated two panels at the 2014 Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Conference with my colleagues from the Centre for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding at the University of South Australia, Gilbert Caluya and Yassir Morsi.

The first panel, on ‘The State of Race I: Postracialism and its Limits’ had papers by myself, Angela Mitropolous, Gilbert Caluya and Yassir Morsi. Continue reading

Should Pussy Riot Boycott the Festival of Dangerous Ideas?

FODIA Head-to-head published in The Guardian on 29 August 2014.

On 11 August an anonymous group published an open letter to two ex-members of Pussy Riot. The group called on Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova to withdraw from the Festival of Dangerous Ideas taking place this weekend at the Sydney Opera House, due to the links between the St James Ethics Centre, co-organisers of the event, and the government’s cruel and illegal policy of mandatory detention, Operation Sovereign Borders. I support this initiative.  The St James Ethics Centre’s board includes retired Major General Andrew James Molan, the paid special envoy of Operation Sovereign Borders and former chief of operations of the allied forces in Iraq. Until 19 July this year, the Board of the St James Ethics Centre Foundation, the Centre’s fundraising wing, also included Douglas Sneddon, director of the board of Transfield Services and chair of the Transfield Services human resources committee.On 11 August an anonymous group published an open letter to two ex-members of Pussy Riot. The group called on Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova to withdraw from the Festival of Dangerous Ideas taking place this weekend at the Sydney Opera House, due to the links between the St James Ethics Centre, co-organisers of the event, and the government’s cruel and illegal policy of mandatory detention, Operation Sovereign Borders. I support this initiative.  The St James Ethics Centre’s board includes retired Major General Andrew James Molan, the paid special envoy of Operation Sovereign Borders and former chief of operations of the allied forces in Iraq. Until 19 July this year, the Board of the St James Ethics Centre Foundation, the Centre’s fundraising wing, also included Douglas Sneddon, director of the board of Transfield Services and chair of the Transfield Services human resources committee.On 11 August an anonymous group published an open letter to two ex-members of Pussy Riot. The group called on Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova to withdraw from the Festival of Dangerous Ideas taking place this weekend at the Sydney Opera House, due to the links between the St James Ethics Centre, co-organisers of the event, and the government’s cruel and illegal policy of mandatory detention, Operation Sovereign Borders. I support this initiative.  The St James Ethics Centre’s board includes retired Major General Andrew James Molan, the paid special envoy of Operation Sovereign Borders and former chief of operations of the allied forces in Iraq. Until 19 July this year, the Board of the St James Ethics Centre Foundation, the Centre’s fundraising wing, also included Douglas Sneddon, director of the board of Transfield Services and chair of the Transfield Services human resources committee.On 11 August an anonymous group published an open letter to two ex-members of Pussy Riot. The group called on Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova to withdraw from the Festival of Dangerous Ideas taking place this weekend at the Sydney Opera House, due to the links between the St James Ethics Centre, co-organisers of the event, and the government’s cruel and illegal policy of mandatory detention, Operation Sovereign Borders. I support this initiative.

Read the rest of the article on The Guardian website