CAMPUS Talks: Gurminder K. Bhambra

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With the launch of CAMPUS Independent Study Programme, we will be hosting a series of talks by CAMPUS faculty exploring alternative modes of education, decolonial practices, Black studies and anti-fascist movements.

Whose Welfare? Colonial Regimes of Extraction and British Subjecthood

Across the political spectrum, arguments are being made that associate the projected demise of the welfare state with a rise in (racialized) migration. Claims about ‘white replacement’ and questions about who is legitimately entitled to a share in the wealth of European nations have come to be a major part of political debate. The fundamental assumption is that the national patrimony available for distribution is precisely that – national. That is, it is wealth that has been generated through the activities of citizens over time and whose use and distribution ought to be regulated for ‘the people’ whose contributions and efforts it represents. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, over half of the revenue available to the national government in Westminster came from the colonies and broader Empire; with two-thirds of this coming from India alone.

In this talk, Gurminder K. Bhambra examines the broader imperial provenance of the material resources at the disposal of the national collectivity and raises the question of how the boundaries of citizenship came to be determined. While the experience of ‘total war’ was central to the development of welfare for national citizens, the shared experience of these wars by imperial subjects, in terms both of military service and the provision of resources, has been considered less often. By reconfiguring our current understandings of these issues, Bhambra seeks to intervene in contemporary social and political debates about the ‘legitimate beneficiaries’ of those assets and to argue for the need for postcolonial reparative action.

Gurminder K Bhambra is Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies in the Department of International Relations in the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex. Previously, she was Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick and Guest Professor of Sociology and History at the Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, Linnaeus University, Sweden (2016-18). In March 2017, she was Visiting Professor at EHESS, Paris; for the academic year 2014-15, she was Visiting Fellow in the Department of Sociology, Princeton University and Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. She has also held a Visiting Position at the Department of Sociology, University of Brasilia, Brazil; and is affiliated with REMESO, Linköping University, Sweden.

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