In this paper, drawing on fieldwork in two British immigration removal centres (IRCs), I will discuss staff accounts of race and racism in detention. Designed as places to expel unwanted foreign citizens, IRCs are highly racialised institutions as nearly all resident within them are members of an ethnic minority. What is it like to work in such places? How, if at all, do staff members internalise or promote ideas about race and racialization. What happens when the staff members themselves are migrants or second-generation British citizens? How do they view and interpret ideas of race? What is their status within the workforce? By focusing on staff accounts rather than detainees’ this paper seeks to widen our understanding of the ways in which these institutions of confinement rest, reinforce and maybe sometimes, disrupt, ideas of race and belonging in British society.
The Long History of Ethnicity & Nationhood Reconsidered’ Seminar aims at systematically rethinking the history and theory of ethnicity, nationhood and nationalism. The full programme of the seminar is available here.
The Long History of Identity, Ethnicity and Nationhood Research Network is convened by Ilya Afanasyev and Nicholas Matheou.