The coloniality of distinction: class, race and whiteness among post-crisis Italian migrants

Varriale, Simone (2021) The coloniality of distinction: class, race and whiteness among post-crisis Italian migrants. The Sociological Review . ISSN 0038-0261

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The coloniality of distinction: class, race and whiteness among post-crisis Italian migrants
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Abstract

This article explores how strategies of class distinction reproduce racialised hierarchies between ‘modern’ and ‘backward’ European populations. Drawing on 57 interviews with Italian migrants who moved to England after the 2008 economic crisis, and combining Bourdieusian class analysis and decolonial critique, the article shows that migrants in different social positions are equally concerned with claiming closeness to the UK’s meritocratic culture and with distancing themselves from Italy’s backwardness. However, they mobilise unequal forms of capital to sustain this claim. More resourceful migrants use economic and cultural capital to demonstrate fit with British culture and to racialise less resourceful co-nationals as too ‘Southern’ to belong. The latter stress self-resilience and Italianness as sources of distinction, but more frequently report exploitation and stigma in the context of insecure professional fields. The article advances research on class, racialisation and European whiteness, unravelling the coloniality of distinction, namely how class helps more resourceful migrants to symbolically claim North European whiteness while displacing ‘race’ – in the forms of laziness, lack of rationality and self-restraint – onto less resourceful migrants. This reveals how, in the post-2008 context, enduring narratives of South-North difference legitimise class inequalities, exploitation and neoliberal forms of self-governance.

Keywords:Class, Race, migration, Pierre Bourdieu
Subjects:L Social studies > L300 Sociology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:42315
Deposited On:10 Sep 2020 15:37

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