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Lecture | Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminar (LIMS)

Double session: ‘From Saigon to Marseille and Beyond: Franco-Indochinese ‘Repatriation’ after 1955’ and ‘Brexit and the colonial determinants of the deserving/undeserving poor’

  • Kathryn Edwards
  • Robbie Shilliam
Tuesday 11 April 2017
Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars 2016-2017
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference room (2.60)

Kathryn Edwards (Tulane, New Orleans),  ‘From Saigon to Marseille and Beyond: Franco-Indochinese ‘Repatriation’ after 1955’

Beginning in 1955, French citizens of Indochinese origin were ‘repatriated’ to France, a country that most of them had never seen. These repatriates, as they were often known, had opted to keep their French citizenship following the independence of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and as a result found it difficult to stay in the countries where they had been born and raised. This paper will examine the conditions and experiences of their migration to France, as well as the challenges they faced upon arrival. Housed in ‘welcome centres’ at the expense of the state, these French citizens faced not only a difficult adaptation to a new country, but extraordinary pressures to assimilate into French society despite their French nationality. 

Robbie Shilliam (Queen Mary’s London), ‘Brexit and the colonial determinants of the deserving/undeserving poor’. Discussant: Karwan Fatah-Black (History)

This presentation seeks to provide a historical context to contemporary debates over the “white working class” by accounting for the development of this constituency through a postcolonial genealogy of British empire. The objective is to account for the racialization of the distinction between deserving and underserving poor, a distinction through which the “white working class” materialises as a constituency, and to chart the consistent shifting of these racialized coordinates across imperial time and space. In light of Brexit, the presentation seeks to demonstrate that the “white working class” is neither an indigenous constituency, nor its own progenitor, but rather a product of struggles to consolidate and defend British imperial order which shaped the postcolonial compact of British society. Contemporary retrievals of the white working class as “deserving” of social security follow a deeply entrenched inability to consider social justice outside of the framework of race and empire. As Britain prepares for the first time to carve out a national economy from an imperial, commonwealth and European hinterland, this presentation serves as a warning to the hubris of much of the contemporary political class.

The Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars (LIMS) aim at fostering further discussion across disciplines on migration-related topics and creating an open dialogue between the speakers and the attendees. The seminars are a platform for those at Leiden University working on migration-related topics.

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