Does anyone know what European means? Manuela Boatcă thought she did, until a late 1990s move from Romania to Germany unsettled everything she had taken for granted. In this episode, she challenges mainstream ideas of “Europe” to show how its borders extend to the Caribbean (and beyond) – a fact that’s obvious if we acknowledge colonialism’s past and present, but is an inconvenient truth for some in political power.
Alexis and Rosie ask Manuela: How has Brexit revealed the contradictions built into so much discourse about “Europe”? How does “Creolizing” theory differ from “Decolonising” it? And what is the legacy of early sociologist Max Weber’s leading question: why the West?
Plus: a celebration of Immanuel Wallerstein’s World Systems approach, which decentres the nation state. With reflection on Stuart Hall, Edouard Glissant, Françoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih.
Guest: Manuela Boatcă
Hosts: Rosie Hancock, Alexis Hieu Truong
Executive Producer: Alice Bloch
Sound Engineer: David Crackles
Music: Joe Gardner
Artwork: Erin Aniker
Find more about Uncommon Sense at The Sociological Review.
Manuela, Rosie, Alexis and our producer Alice recommended
From The Sociological Review
By Manuela Boatcă
Alexis Hieu Truong 0:05
Hello, and welcome back to Uncommon Sense from The Sociological Review. I'm Alexis Hieu Truong in Ottawa, Canada.
Rosie Hancock 0:12
And I'm Rosie Hancock in Sydney, Australia. And this is where we grab hold of an everyday notion that we tend to take for granted. So already in the series, things like taste and breakups and solidarity. And with help from our guests, we see those things differently, and more critically. In doing so we try to show what thinking sociologically can do – and why it matters. I guess.
Alexis Hieu Truong 0:37
Today, we're talking about Europe. And unlike other themes we've taken on in Uncommon Sense – say cities, emotions, listening – where there at least seems to be a single mainstream definition of the thing – I think it's fair to say that well, no one really knows what they mean when they say Europe, or European. Like, does it really refer to the EU or to a more amorphous geographical Europe?
Rosie Hancock 1:02
Yeah, it's a confusion captured well by Boris Johnson, who after the Brexit vote, told Britain's that just because they were leaving Europe, they wouldn't be any less European. But that strange claim helpfully draws us closer to where we're headed in today's show, because we're not just interested in Europe's borders or outlines here. We're also interested in what we're getting at when we talk about Europe, what it signifies, what it obscures. Alexis, what does the word Europe mean to you? Tell me.
Alexis Hieu Truong 1:32
Growing up in Canada, I guess part of it was just like what we learned in school in history books of the 80s and 90s. And another part of that is kind of just like memories of travelling with my mom, staying in really cheap, hostels, and exploring. But yeah, it has a feeling of being like, really, really distant to me here in Ottawa. And one might think that it'd be closer because I speak like French and English. But actually, when I was travelling, the question of like, the accent, and people kind of correcting me, or reminding me of that all the time, felt more like it was creating a divide. I don't know. How about you, Rosie?
Rosie Hancock 2:13
Yeah, I mean, growing up in New Zealand and living now in Australia. I mean, it's so common to spend your youth kind of desperate to travel to Europe. I mean, people say, I'm gonna go do Europe, right. it's that idea of backpacking is like this rite of passage – you get your train pass, you get a backpack, a few months off – and it's the stuff of your teenage dreams. But I should say that living in the postcolonial Antipodes, there's also a sense of cultural inferiority – when I think about Europe from here in Australia – like Europe's where the real culture is, and we're just this pale imitation, even though our cultures and our histories are totally related. Okay, well, I mean, I guess today is actually going to help us see these things more clearly, by showing us what Europe – and our ideas of what counts as European – really looks like once we confront history and colonialism and the gaps that have been compounded by some social scientists actually, and will be foregrounding power and hegemony and taking a global perspective that goes way beyond mainstream ideas of Europe and the nation state lens. Importantly. She's Manuela Boatcă, professor of Sociology at the University of Freiburg in Germany, and she works on borders, global inequalities, race, citizenship, and forgotten Europes. Hi, Manuela. Thanks for joining us.
Manuela Boatcă 3:35
Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Rosie Hancock 3:38
It's great to have you here. Manuela, we wanted to ask about your own background, because I think you moved from Romania to Germany when you were 21, to study sociology. How did that experience lead you to think critically about the meaning of this word, European? And can you, can you just kind of give us a sense of the time that this happened in? A few dates yeah?
Manuela Boatcă 3:58
Right. So I was studying English and German philology in Romania until I was 21, so I got my BA there at the end of the 90s. And then I wanted to do an MA in sociology. And I wanted to do that in Germany – not knowing that there wasn't such a thing as an MA there. But I moved first, and then I ended up doing a PhD in sociology. And actually, it took me that PhD to realise that what I had done was that I had migrated. I didn't think of myself as migrating. I thought I was, you know, moving within Europe as a European – and I had been brought up to think that I was European and that Romania was in Europe – but migrating to Germany at the end of the 90's when there was a lot of talk about Eastern European enlargement and how and whether Romania would join the European Union – the notion that parts of Europe were not as European as others was being increasingly questioned. And, and I had also been brought up to think of myself as European and Romanian at the same time, but also not to have to think whether or not I was white. But that became questionable at the same time because the understanding that European states are only EU member states, and European citizens are actually the White Western Christian European citizens was not always explicit. But a lot of it came to be part of the discourse about what it means to be European.
Alexis Hieu Truong 3:59
So I hear that like your own understanding and reflections on your own experience – and I guess the history and the life of Europe – more generally kind of really changed at various steps of of your life course, and through these other important steps. And actually, the move you describe was, of course, prior to Brexit – the vote which was in 2016, – to the discourse around the UK, leaving the European Union that began much earlier. How has the political event brought to light some of the things you mentioned, just here – say Whiteness, in particular – has Brexit done any good in at least making us stop and ask "Hang on – what is Europe, actually?" what do you mean, when we use that word?
Manuela Boatcă 6:19
I don't think I want to start a sentence with Brexit did some goods in X, but I will try to use the question differently. I think Brexit represents a crisis, and it was premised on questioning what it means to be European, and who belongs to Europe. And who do we actually want to be seen as making claims to this Europeaness. And crises, in my understanding – and a lot of people have written about this with respect to Brexit, but also with respect to the pandemic – crises like these make inequalities more visible in that they act as magnifying lenses. We tend to zoom in on the kind of questions that are at the heart of a crisis, such as the discourse in UK that we do not want Eastern European, low skilled workers coming in and taking our jobs while at the same time being lazy, which the paradox kind of slipped through the cracks – it was possible to take jobs away and be lazy at the same time – as long as you were from the European east. So that made, I guess, long standing inequalities very visible. But what that kind of discourse did for me was to make it easier to talk about something that had been at this part of what I was working on for a long time, mainly need the fact that we have more than one Europe – we have unequal Europe's and unequal Europeans. And that if you talk about this as a sociologist, it sounds like a fancy term that you're trying to coin your own concept so that people would quote you. But with an event such as Brexit, what you see is that you get inequality kind of already structured for you – in that coming from the East of Europe, you're the lesser European and coming from the West of Europe, you get to define whether you're still European if you leave the European Union. So you have a very different say in what it means to belong to Europe, and what that concept should encompass. And who should it serve.
Rosie Hancock 8:26
Yeah, so I mean, we've just been talking about what Brexit has brought to light, I think, but what's been left obscured, you know, despite Brexit, what are we still not talking about when we talk about Europe? I think you want to draw attention to the position, in fact, the existence of overseas territories, yes? Can you tell us... I mean, me in particular, coming from Australia and New Zealand, this is I'm, I thought, I thought Europe was Europe, right? Like, what there's Europe, not in Europe? Can you tell us what these things are? And maybe give a few examples and why they matter to your thinking?
Manuela Boatcă 9:03
Right. So I was working, and I'm working on the Caribbean for quite some time. And from this perspective, it was amazing to me that the entire discussion on possible hard borders following Brexit would turn round Ireland or Gibraltar – that was very much in the news and in the political discussions. But we hardly ever heard about British overseas territories in the Caribbean, that are tied administratively to Britain, but they did not have a vote in the Brexit referendum. Because as overseas territories administratively, they have a different political status. They have, their inhabitants have different citizenships. It's a UK citizenship but called British Overseas Territory Citizenship which comes with different rights and that does not include the right to vote in a national referendum. And so places like Anguilla – that is the oldest British territory in the Caribbean – was facing having a hard border with a French and Dutch territory in the Caribbean. That is Saint Martin – it's a an island that is half Dutch and half French – separated from Anguilla by the Anguilla channel. So it's actually a miniature picture of Britain's border with France, in the Caribbean – only that the hard border in that sense would have been even more dramatic before it was finally resolved – but not because of any British politicians working towards it, but because of bilateral agreements. But initially, the threat was that the Anguilla channel separating Anguilla from Dutch and French Saint Martin, would also separated from the specialised hospital and from the airport. So that tells you how dramatic this could have been before, like I said, it was solved by bilateral agreements. But there are others such as Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, and also outside of the Caribbean, British Indian Ocean Territory or the British Antarctic territory are also overseas territories of Britain.
Alexis Hieu Truong 11:22
So describing those those various divisions or borders that can appear very curious or at least, like, problematic. You mentioned the Caribbean, and it's central, I think, to what you describe as thinking Europe otherwise – could you explain a bit more about that? And what you mean by that word, otherwise?
Manuela Boatcă 11:42
I guess, one of the reasons why I'm so happy to be on this podcast is that I think your main goal does precisely what the otherwise does, to me,. The Uncommon Sense is kind of challenging and itching a bit at Common Sense understandings of things and the "Otherwise" is actually a political term having to do with the World Social Forum that was understood as a different way of thinking about the world economy – so thinking the economy "otherwise" being the counterpart of the World Economic Forum, right? With respect to Europe, that hasn't been very much applied, because we tended to think – like you said in the beginning – we know what Europe is and if we need to do anything is as deep as Chakrabarty has proposed, in the beginning of the 2000s – provincialize Europe – and then we're done. But I think understanding Europe otherwise – and especially going to the Caribbean to do so to Caribbean history, and Caribbean reality – is a way of seeing how no region but also Europe is not an isolated continent or an isolated area of the world. But they have all been entangled through power relations. Precisely, colonialism and imperialism. And the Caribbean is central to understanding Europe, otherwise or differently, because it is the region that has, has had the longest historical relationship to Europe and relationship sounds very nice. It wasn't a symmetric relationship – it was one premised on colonialism, genocide, occupation, the plantation economy – but we hardly talk about the fact that in 1492, it was in the Caribbean that Columbus arrived, we hear he arrived in America, but that's a huge claim. So he arrived in the Caribbean, making the Caribbean the first region to be colonised by Europe – and the region to which more than, well one third, almost one half of the 12.5 million Africans that were trafficked from Africa to the Americas arrived. At the same time to arrive in the present, the Caribbean is still colonised today – to a great extent, many states in the Caribbean are still under the control of European colonial powers and the US or the US. So Puerto Rico or part of the US or the US Virgin Islands. I've listed some of the British territories but there are also French territories such as Saint Martin or the Dutch territories of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao.
Alexis Hieu Truong 14:33
When you speak, it's really like drawing a map in my mind. It's kind of, yeah, I guess, I can renegotiate that map because looking at the geographical position is kind of bringing you to kind of discuss those relations between countries, nation states, and also the social relations, right, of power. And it seems like your work locates Europe in the Caribbean – or rather parts of the Caribbean in Europe. It shows that they're entangled. And when you start to draw that wider map of Europe, you become able to tell a deeper historical history that people might rather forget, yes? Because it highlights violence that people like to think is the very opposite of what they think of as European. So you make the case for Europe as a creolised space. Can you tell us what you mean by that?
Manuela Boatcă 15:23
Yes, I think it's very important to mention how maps can be helpful in this regard, because I work a lot with maps and I use them to visualise arguments and histories – as you pointed out. And the first thing that happens when we see the still colonised parts of the Caribbean as part of Europe today, is that our map of Europe changes. We speak a lot, and we have spoken a lot – especially in the past year with the war Ukraine – about the eastern border of Europe. We speak about the southern border of Europe with the increasing dramatic deaths in the Mediterranean. But we never speak so much at all, actually, about the western border, because it seems to be a natural one – it's the western coast of Portugal, right. But if we understand the Overseas Territories, and the outermost regions – that's another juridical category – as part of Europe, and see outermost region – such as French Guiana, or Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean, or overseas territories, such as Anguilla – as part of Europe, then we would have to acknowledge, just in a banal way, that the western border of Europe is located in South America, in the Caribbean. That is not a politically convenient discourse. This is not something that you can put forth as a defining characteristic of Europe or the European Union. When you negotiate with states such as Turkey, or such as Ukraine, for whom the argument has been used for a long time "Well, they're not really in Europe, they're so close to Asia, actually, Turkey's half in Asia". So okay, so if French Guiana is in South America, but is a European region and French school atlases depict is as the poorest region of France, then that argument doesn't really hold does it? So understanding Europe as a creolised space – not only geographically, but also in terms of demographics, in terms of religion – means that a multilingual, multi-confessional region such as the Caribbean, has been part of Europe for the longest time, for centuries. So an argument about Christian Europe kind of falls flat. An argument that today is maybe not so explicit, but it's very forceful in its implicitness – is about the Whiteness of Europe – well, that argument implodes if we take Caribbean populations and territories as part of Europe – which administratively they are – so we'd need to speak about Black Europeans not as exceptions, not as something that, you know, we can sometimes bring into the conversation – but as a constitutive part of what Europe has been for centuries, and still is today.
Rosie Hancock 18:25
And we were talking about creolisation – I'm curious, can we apply this idea more broadly? I mean, can you creolise theory too? And if so, is that part of decolonizing sociology or something a bit different?
Manuela Boatcă 18:40
Yes, that's an important point because creolisation is a term that has been applied to the Caribbean and has been theorised in the Caribbean first – with respect to languages that came out of the mixing of European and African languages in the context of the plantation economy. But Creole languages and creolisation are not the same thing. Édouard Glissant, a Martiniquan scholar, has pointed to how creolisation is a form of relationality, of how communities, populations but also territories related forcefully through such a relation as colonialism, become entangled in unequal ways so that the result is a mix, but a mix premised on inequality. This is something that Stuart Hall has later theorised in order to caution that we should not celebrate mixing as a sort of – look the world is so entangled everyone has a creolised cuisine and creolised music so we should it's a triumph, you know, of a globalised world that we have all these exotic mixes. No If the mixing comes on the basis of power relations, military occupation, genocides and exploitation, then it is a triumph of human resilience, of political resistance, of revolutions – that people have survived these relations and have come at the other end of them speaking other languages, having syncretized religion and having found some form of coexistence with former or current oppressors – but this is an equal part, the inequality part should be kept in mind. We can creolise theory – and this is something that has been proposed by people like Shu-mei Shihshoe and Françoise Lionnet in a book by the same name – "The Creolization of Theory" – which is basically a proposal to –not only include in the sense of politically correctly including –other names than the usual suspects, the white male European authors as the generators of theory – but learning from authors, theorists and theories from the Global South, in order to understand how to think about our own present. So in order to think about Europe, we need to learn from the Caribbean and not just apply European theories to the Caribbean to explain their own reality back to them. Rather, a concept such as creolisation can tell White Western Europeans something about what they have obscured or forgot about their own reality.
Alexis Hieu Truong 21:47
Manuela, this seems like a good place to turn to the role of social scientists in perpetuating sometimes damaging ideas of Europe and the West. You highlight Max Weber as important to talk about here. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Manuela Boatcă 22:02
Yes, Max Weber is a very important figure for sociology, is one of them, canonised classics, but also for history, and also for legal studies, in many cases. And I think before going into any of his very vast works, one point stands out to me in how a contribution by somebody like Max Weber has a legacy until today. One of Max Weber's main questions was to ask why the West? Thats it - that is the question. Why the West? – already implies that the West pioneered modernity, they developed kind of a type of society and kind of achieved everything that makes the West superior. That is something that Max Weber was at pains to put forth with respect to other great civilisations – crediting them with some contribution – but asking this question, why the West? – already kind of channels the possible answers into a very limited number of directions – like how many answers can you give to "Why the West?" – you will not find out that it was actually not the West because you didn't ask that. You will ask. you will, you will find out that any other part of the world ended up lacking something. So that understanding is part of a legacy that Max Weber has in social science that actually pioneered a comparative method. People started comparing civilisations with respect to their contributions to a world culture, from a point of view in which this question – Why the West?– was always kind of in the back of their mind.
Rosie Hancock 24:04
Manuela, look, this probably seems like a little bit of like a sudden about turning questioning here. But am I right, that you want to point out a few really great works about food that are relevant for our conversation here. And honestly, even though it seems like a complete non sequitur, it would actually make sense to me, because food cultures so often reveal histories, hypocrisies, contradictions in societies and how they see themselves. Like, you know, you could think about 1920s Vienna as somehow the epitome of Europe and all that word connotes. But if you start asking where the coffee for, you know, their very famous coffee houses actually came from, you see a different picture. Likewise, French gastronomy and so on. Yes?
Manuela Boatcă 24:52
That's correct, that this is a great example to bring in the entanglements and the relationships between In Europe, and it's many others. And one of the books that stood out to me when I was starting to work on the Caribbean was Sidney Mintz's "Sweetness and Power: the place of sugar in modern history" in which Mintz highlights this one tropical commodity – sugar – that was considered, it was as valuable as gold really up until the 18th century. And the history of that commodity as something that was very much sought after, that was expensive to produce, before the plantation economy of the Caribbean – and production under enslavement became a large scale possibility. Before that – before colonialism and enslavement – it was only royal houses that could really afford to consume sugar in rather considerable amounts. And by the end of the 18th century, beginning of the 19th, sugar had become something that was everywhere because it was so cheap to come by. But it was so cheap to come by because it was produced under enslavement by trafficked Africans working in the Caribbean. And Mintz has this great way of relating things saying how sugar became part of the diet of the workers in British manufacturers, kind of ensuring foods that is providing a lot of energy – as we know, sugar does – but not very nutritious. So it's not expensive, it doesn't really feed you, but it keeps you working. And so sugar, tea became the common sense – that we're trying to uncommon sense now – of the British industrial workers, because that gave them a possibility to go to bed not feeling hungry, although they hadn't eaten much nutritious food. But tea and sugar meant Indian colonies providing tea, Caribbean colonies providing sugar.
Alexis Hieu Truong 27:04
So we can see part of this reflection on on the various Europe's right, are those great borders in the very day to day practices –the food, the cultural practices – and so on. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, the very formal or admit this administrative process, we might think about something like citizenship. And so just briefly, one of the things you invite us to see differently, and at a really different scale is exactly this idea of citizenship. So rather than it being about inclusion, equality, levelling, you show that it's also an outcome of colonialism. Can you tell us about that and how you teach your students to think more critically, yeah, about European and Europe's?
Manuela Boatcă 27:49
Yeah, that's actually part of everyday practice in teaching. I run a global programme here in, in Freiburg – it's called the Global Studies programme in the social sciences. So we have a lot of international students. For them. This example of passports coming with privilege or with disadvantages is immediately relatable. So we discuss passports as a mechanism that are tied to citizenships while citizenship in sociology – and that also goes back to Max Weber's understanding of the West having pioneered the notion of citizenship – is normally taught and normally understood and sociology as an institution that provides equality, it provides equal rights. It does away with the disadvantages of having been born in a certain region or to a certain estate, right – the nobility, the clergy, or the peasantry – it becomes an institution that doles out the same rights to the members of the polity. And I talk to students about how this is true – in the nation state context, for which Weber was actually thinking – the institution of citizenship, seeing it as a very modern one on account of it providing rights. But in a global perspective, the same institution – in the same provision of rights equally to members of the polity – ends up excluding everyone else. So that closing borders of European nation states after centuries of colonialism and exploitation means hoarding those resources – and yes, providing equal rights to members of your polity – but keeping everyone else from accessing them. And accessing them means accessing infrastructure, good roads, hospitals, and in some cases, clean water.
Rosie Hancock 29:49
Yeah. And I mean, speaking of the flaws of this of citizenship and the nation state model, we're going to be back very shortly to talk about up taking a world systems approach – which might be a different way to think about that. But time now for a word from our producer, Alice.
Alice Bloch 30:13
Hi, thanks for listening to Uncommon Sense from the Sociological Review, where still every month we meet a new guest and together take hold of an everyday concept – something we all kind of think we know or tend to just throw around casually. And we really sit and work to see it differently, more critically without jargon or paywalls. Today, we're with Manuela Boatcă talking about Europeans. And if you're enjoying this, you'll probably like our show on cities with Roman Choudry from back in series one. And you're also sure to love "Spatial Delight" – a podcast about the politics of space. Inspired by the life and work of the British geographer Doreen Massey, and created by Agata Lisiak. You'll find that over at the podcast page at thesociologicalreview.org. Okay, back to Rosie.
Rosie Hancock 31:05
So we're at the point in the show where we typically take on a single trope or a popular buzzword – something we lazily adopt without pausing to ask what it's really about – say self-care in our show on care, the idea of urban loneliness – which we talked about in the show on cities. But today, as we did last month with our guest, Ilana Gershon, who talked about being inspired by the anthropologist Marilyn Strathern. We wanted to ask you Manuela, about an approach that inspires you to think differently.
Alexis Hieu Truong 31:40
So we wanted to ask you about the world systems approach, often called the world–systems theory of Immanuel Wallerstein. it's one of those things sociology students at school level – and I know our producer, Alice has confessed to doing this – and might actually just grab from a textbook and cite in an exam or two, but it's actually pretty complex and misunderstood.
Rosie Hancock 32:01
Manuela, as we understand it, it was Wallerstein's view that we're living in a time when the overarching political superstructure – as it's called – is a world economy within which states vie for power and position and a global hierarchy. So it's, it's a kind of different scale of analysis that de-centres the nation state – does that summary sound about right to you?
Manuela Boatcă 32:23
It does, the global part for sure is something that should stand out to anyone looking for explanations at the big scale of what is happening inequalities today. I would really define the world–systems approach actually – naming itself also some analysis rather than theory – as the first analysis of global inequalities in a historical perspective that we had in the social sciences.
Alexis Hieu Truong 32:54
And how does or how can a world–systems approach intersect with other important approaches today – say with something like critical race theory?
Manuela Boatcă 33:03
Right, that's an important point, because actually – a bit differently than how Rosie described world–systems analysis, just now – people would tend to emphasise the fact that it wasn't so much the political in the state system or the interstate system that world–systems analysis focused on – it was the economy it was the mode of production – being a capitalist world economy, encompassing the entire world. From the 16th to the 19th century, it's when it's expanding, and from the 19th century, it's encompassing the entire world. So a lot of the criticisms of the approach were about it being too economistic. Now, the political side that Rosie referred to – and the way it intersects with other approaches, such as critical race theory – are actually the way that world–systems analysis works with both – the economy in the political and the cultural – at the same time. So for world systems analysis, racism would be part of what Wallerstein called the world–systems geo-culture. So after capitalism engulfed the entire world and in the process of engulfing the world and producing a division of labour between core regions, semi-peripheral regions and peripheral regions - that division of labour came with an ideology of who gets paid what according to where they are, what kind of labour they perform – is it wage labour, is it in served labour? Is it enslaved or is it indentured labour? Or is it free enterprise? – and that understanding of the division of labour and how its remunerated was very much racialised. So that increasingly after, you know, the beginning of European colonialism where you had white Europeans being enslaved, indigenous people being enslaved and the beginning of the trade and enslaved people from Africa. By the 18th century, you have a very strict, kind of a segregated division, where White Europeans are moving towards wage labour. It's Black Africans that are enslaved and enslavement becomes synonymous with Black. And there are all these in between categories that are either indentured labour or serf labour – and they are racialised as well. So I see here – this so called geo–culture of the world system – the fact that racism becomes a discourse about why it's justified to not pay Black people because they are enslaved and enslaved people do not need to be paid – is a way of justifying the world economy and its capitalist logic of maximising profit. It's not its own discourse that comes out independently and in parallel with capitalism. It goes hand in hand with it.
Rosie Hancock 36:10
Right. So it's this is, this is all super interesting Manuela. So a world–systems analysis is kind of insisting that these sort of hard borders of the nation state aren't so much defining kind of state's policy in this like realist International Relations kind of way. But actually, there's this kind of massive global structures of, you know, money moving around of, of kind of power – that there are, there are places that there, there are places on the map or on the globe that have more – and they exploit places that are further out from them – this kind of core periphery idea. And so the nation state kind of, it just really isn't as relevant in this in this kind of approach or analysis – as you call it. And I'm wondering, can you tell us more about how it shapes your thinking on our theme today? Because I imagine it's, it's woven throughout what we've already discussed. But could you link that thinking more explicitly to Wallerstein for us?
Manuela Boatcă 37:13
I think that's an important point to see how Wallerstein himself defined, namely, as a historical social scientist – he was against the history versus sociology versus political science division, as something that makes sense in itself – because these disciplines were constructed. So from the perspective of historical social scientist, he would always question the nation state and say, how many actually existing nation states do we have? One of the examples that he gave that I liked very much was at some point in the... sorry, in the 80s – when he gave a talk in Germany and gave the example of Puerto Rico and Germany as states that do not overlap with their nation. Puerto Rico being still a colony of the United States, and Germany in the 80s – being actually two Germany's – so how useful is the definition of a nation state, where we have actually these exceptions – but many other exceptions – actually more than those that conform to the rule. So helpful in this understanding, for me is how world–ystems analysis historicises our understanding of states and saying we should not take one state as an example of development and project that state back in history – because if we take Britain or Germany or France – they all had different borders in time, depending on where we talk about. So we cannot say France today is the state that pioneered X. It's the historicising and the questioning of nation state borders, that shows us how these formations were part of either the core, the periphery or the semi–periphery all shifted within that hierarchy.
Rosie Hancock 39:10
It seems kind of staggering, that in such a globalised and entangled world, we still see things so crudely through a nation state lense – I mean, like elites and those who control capital and so much of our lives very much act as though they're above the nation state, right? I mean, do you think there's an increasing need for a world–systems approach, including in sociology –where we've not only seen the problem of methodological nationalism, which we have talked about on this show once before – but even approaches centred on say, globalisation, arguably, you know, haven't captured the true significance of this political superstructure for the working of nations or the nation states.
Manuela Boatcă 39:52
I would say an increasing need would even be well served with as little as going back to a reading world–systems analysis rather than thinking that people know what it was about and what it explained and that it wasn't about today's world – but it was about the 70s. It wasn't. It was very much about dependency relationships – actually drawing very much from Latin American dependency theory. It was about history – very much drawing on Vietnam borders and that school.... so very much questioning what it is that we need to analyse – that's why it's called world–systems analysis. What is the unit of analysis? It should not unquestionably be the nation state. But that doesn't make the nation state irrelevant. It makes it relevant to the question we ask – but we shouldn't assume that it is absolutely unquestionably the first unit of analysis we need to address – and especially not without historicizing its existence, which border did it have? When it did come about and so on?
Alexis Hieu Truong 40:59
And Manuela just finally, I know you yourself identify as a decolonial, not post–colonial scholar, can you tell us about that? And perhaps some of the like other scholars who have or are taking a similar approach, taking us people like Aníbal Quijano, for example?
Manuela Boatcă 41:19
Yes, I think it's an important distinction, but one that we should not reify. Post–colonial scholars have tended for a long time to focus on the British Empire and British colonies as the kind of defining moment of why we should talk about colonialism and post–colonialism, post–colonial identities at the same time. The critique that decolonial scholarship, so especially the decolonial thoughts from Latin America – pioneered by people like Aníbal Quijano and Enrique Dussel and Walter Mignolo, Fernando Coronil – were very much pointing out that this understanding of colonialism as being centred around the British Empire leaves out two centuries of colonialism, namely, the Iberian colonisation of the Americas. If we leave the Americas out, and say – this is kind of the pre–history of modernity, but modernity started with British industrialization, and that's where actually capitalism started – we both define capitalism as industrial capitalism, leaving out the political economy of the plantation, the actually industrial way in which many plantations functioned to produce sugar or coffee or cotton. And we shorten the history to a British centred understanding of both colonialism and post–colonialism. So it's a larger, or a longer historical perspective, and also a larger scope. But there are also movements – people like Stuart Hall very much knew that 1492 was a defining moment of colonialism and post–colonialism and focused on this longer term. Also, because, of course, of his Caribbean heritage. People like Salman Sayyid in the UK today – would not maybe define themselves as decolonial – but are very much working within this perspective. So here, I would say the differentiation stops being helpful. It's how we use the terms and how we work with these perspectives that should define how useful they are for us.
Alexis Hieu Truong 43:40
What you've said really brings me to think about these things in more nuanced ways. It's like, don't take Europe for granted – question it! You know, don't take these concepts for granted. Also, question – the concepts have their peripheries, right? They're not just like little boxes that are immovable. And for sure, you've mentioned some really important thinkers and ideas here, and we'll be sure to put them in our show notes. But for now, though, before we go, this is where we go around the virtual table and kind of grab everyone's tip of something that is not academic. That speaks to today's theme. And Manuela what did you want to share?
Manuela Boatcă 44:20
So this is one kind of exercise that I do with my students when you know, conversation in class falls – and we've discussed citizenship and the institution and the theory and the approaches, and which one's Eurocentric, and they're like – oh, okay, well, we'll look into it. And then I was like, okay, go online. Check out Arton capital – this is an agency providing counsel to people trying to get a second citizenship – which is not just anyone but rich investors who are in the market for a second passport because they have the economic means, but they do not have a strong passport that would get them anywhere they want in as quick a manner as they want. So Arton Capital provides the possibility to look at a world map where you enter your passport and the world map and colours – according to the number of countries that are available to you with that passport to access visa free. Visa free meaning you either don't need a visa at all, or you get it at the airport, or you get something like Esta or Etar or – you know, these kinds of things that you fill in on the computer – but you don't have to actually go anywhere and stand in line and get a visa. If you however, enter a second passport, on that website, the world map colours again. And it shows you how much the power of your passport increases if you actually add that second passport. Most of the time, it's either a European passport of places like Malta – that have investment citizenship programmes, or Caribbean citizenships. These are places that have become independent from the United Kingdom, and that still retain a higher number of visa-free places that their passport can access because of being part of the Commonwealth. And because of a basically a residual benefit of having been a British colony. So these passports from Caribbean territories – such as Saint Kitts and Nevis, or Dominica – are not as strong as the European passports but also not as expensive. So depending on how much money you have, you can go for the one or the other.
Rosie Hancock 46:48
Yeah, I'm just looking at the site now and it has a line there – at least at the time of today's recording – saying discover the power of a second citizenship, live the life you were destined to live. Totally fascinating. Yeah, I'm gonna check that out. But for today, you know, I was thinking about what my sort of example was going to be for this segment and I was talking to our producer Alice earlier about it. And we were comparing notes on our old travel guides to Europe mine are this motley collection of city guides and lonely planets – it's like a tourists Greatest Hits basically on a bookshelf. And our talk today is making me think a whole lot more critically about why those in particular are on my shelf and also why there's a whole lot of other ones that are not there and that I would probably never even put on the Europe shelf to start off with. Alexis, what's your tip for today?
Alexis Hieu Truong 46:48
Actually, I had a really hard time thinking about something but speaking about passports and tourism and so on, it kind of made me remember a memory of like backpacking with, with my mom. And it was like this, I guess top moment of bedazzlement – it was in Barcelona when I when I came out of the of the train or subway and, and saw the Sagrada Familia. And at that time, I was like you spoke in the intro, Rosie, of have a feeling of inferiority that was like – this, this culture with a capital C and like it was so it's such a weird experience, but that that felt very different from, from what I experienced in the past. And at the same time, the Sagrada Familia is kind of an evolving thing and unfinished process. So it kind of make links with the state of Europe as an ongoing project and so on. So it, it felt symbolically relevant here.
Rosie Hancock 48:36
Yeah, thanks, Alexis. I also love the La Sagrada Familia. When I was in Barcelona, one of the, one of the stops on my, on my greatest hits tour of Europe. Anyway, Manuela, this is where we say goodbye, and I'll definitely be thinking of our conversation next time I'm planning my European itinerary. Thanks for being with us today. It has been very illuminating.
Manuela Boatcă 48:59
Thank you so much, everyone.
Alexis Hieu Truong 49:02
And that's it for this month. Remember, you can catch today's reading list – including our pick of pieces from the Sociological Review – over at the podcasts page at thesociologicalreview.org. Or just scroll our episode notes in the app you're using to enjoy this. Head back through our archive now, to hear episodes that overlap a lot with what we talked about today. I'd suggest the ones on home security and the idea of natives.
Rosie Hancock 49:27
We'll be back with you next month. In the meantime, thanks to our guest, Manuela Boatcă. Our sound engineer was Dave Crackles and our producer was Alice Bloch... Bye
Alexis Hieu Truong 49:37