New article: Whiteness, populism and the racialisation of the working class in the United Kingdom and the United States

To cite this article: Aurelien Mondon & Aaron Winter (2018): Whiteness, populism and the racialisation of the working class in the United Kingdom and the United States, Identities, DOI:10.1080/1070289X.2018.1552440

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The pre-published text is available here


The election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote were widely hailed as examples of (white) working class revolts. This article examines the populist racialisation of the working class as white and ‘left behind’, and representative of the ‘people’ or ‘demos’, in the campaigns and commentaries. We argue that such constructions made race central, obscured the class make-up, allowed for the re-assertion of white identity as a legitimate political category and legitimised, mainstreamed and normalised racism and the far right. Moreover, it delegitimised Black, Minority Ethnic and immigrant experiences and interests, including working class ones. We show that the construction of the votes as (white) working class revolts, and representing the ‘people’ and/or ‘demos’, is based on a partial reading of electoral data, misrepresents the votes, stigmatises the working class, and supports an ideological purpose which maintains the racial, political and economic status quo.

Auschwitz and anti-racism: the past (and racism) is another country

It is in the here and now that UK racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, far-right and mainstream, are situated, embedded, and do harm. It should be tackled, not displaced and denied. 

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (centre) and Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck (left) prior to kick-off, Villa Park, 2009. Neal Simpson/Press Association. All rights reserved.

On 11 October 2018, it was reported that Chelsea Football Club has proposed sending supporters accused of anti-Semitism and racism to Auschwitz-Birkenau as an alternative to banning orders. That action was being taken by the club came as good news for those concerned about the issue in football and particularly at Chelsea, where some of their supporters are known for anti-Semitic chanting and making the ‘hissing’ sound of gas chambers when playing the traditionally Jewish supported Tottenham Hotspur and other teams.

In terms of wider football, less than a week after the Chelsea announcement, West Ham suspended Mark Phillips, who coached their under-18 team, after he attended a march organised by the far-right Democratic Football Lads Alliance.

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Understanding the mainstreaming of the far right

Much has been written recently about the rise of the far right and its growing impact on mainstream politics. While the campaign and election of Trump was the most covered event, the strong performance of the Freedom Party in Austria, the Front National in France, the Lega in Italy and the victory of Brexit in the UK amongst others have made such discussions ubiquitous. Countless books and articles have focused on the ways in which the discourse of parties and movements once considered toxic has evolved or been adapted. While the concepts of ‘mainstream’ and ‘mainstreaming’ have become commonly used, their definition has been elusive, or rather evaded by scholars and experts on the topic. This is partly due to the fact that defining the mainstream is itself a challenge.

It is therefore not surprising that much of the scholarly work about the mainstreaming of the far right in Europe has been based on electoral performance. Yet, focussing solely on parties and electoral politics risks both underestimating and exaggerating certain phenomena. In the 2007 French presidential election, the defeat of the Front National was only a result of Nicolas Sarkozy’s absorption of many of its ideas, leading in turn to the mainstreaming of the far right party and its return to the forefront of politics. UKIP faced a similar fate after the Brexit victory, and Farage, who has continued to receive disproportionate coverage, was only too happy to say as he stood down from the party leadership that “The Ukippers will have been the turkeys who voted for Christmas.” In the US, white supremacists such as Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer, whose electoral weight is close to nil, have also received disproportionate coverage, including by the more liberal media. This occurs in a context where the far right has endorsed and been supported and emboldened by Trump.

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Reading Mein Kampf, Misreading Education

On 21 November 2017, it was reported that The Langton Grammar School for Boys in Kent will be creating an ‘unsafe space’ forum for its sixth form students. The teacher responsible, James Soderholm, argued that this is a ‘much-needed forum for debate’. It is described as ‘an antidote to the poison of political correctness’, designed to examine ‘the most beautifully disturbed and disturbing ideas, all of them presented without trigger warnings’. ‘Beautiful’ ideas such as those articulated in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, one of the assigned readings. It is clear from the terms, framing and rationale used that the project is an attempt for the school to participate in the wider right-wing and libertarian ‘free speech’ backlash against the alleged dominance of ‘political correctness’ (PC), ‘safe spaces’, ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘no platforming’ on university campuses, where undoubtedly, many of these sixth formers will go upon graduation.

Examples of this backlash include campaigns by Spiked! and its ‘Free Speech Now!’, ‘Free Speech University Rankings’ and ‘Down with Campus Censorship’ campaigns. In the US, there is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and their Campus Rights initiative, as well as Campus Reform and Professor Watchlist. In the UK, the focus of such campaigns has included the National Union of Students (NUS) no-platform policy which has targeted, amongst others, Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel and Milo Yiannopoulos, as well as Rhodes Must Fall protests.

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Charlie Hebdo, Republican Secularism and Islamophobia


The events of January 2015 took place in a context where Islamophobia has become increasingly prevalent. The French far right, and the Front National in particular, found in the stigmatisation of the Muslim community (however loosely defined) an invaluable way to distance itself from its traditional and ideological reliance on crude biological racism, through the use of more insidious forms of culturalism. While their Islamophobia often took an illiberal shape, a more mainstream, acceptable and accepted form has become commonplace within the political discourse of 21st century France. This chapter will examine trends of Islamophobia in France and their global reach and influences. It will then put them in the context of the Charlie Hebdo events and the debate surrounding freedom of speech, bringing reactions to the events from France, Europe and the United States to highlight the discrepancies in understanding what has been the most potent ideological signifier in binding liberals and illiberals together in the aftermath of the attacks.
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Normalized Hate

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick and Prime Minister Theresa May were quick to call Darren Osborne’s June 19 attack in London an act of terrorism. Osborne allegedly shouted “I’m going to kill all Muslims” as he drove a van into the crowd leaving the Muslim Welfare Centre, killing Makram Ali and injuring ten others. May explained that the attack was “declared a terrorist incident within eight minutes” of the first emergency call, and Dick commented that “this was quite clearly an attack on Muslims.”

Their statements came as a relief to some. For years, people have challenged the clear double standard applied to the word terrorism. While the media and officials quickly apply it to attacks perpetrated by those identified with or identifying as Muslims, restraint usually prevails in the wake of other violent crimes, particularly those with white perpetrators.

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Articulations of Islamophobia: From the Extreme to the Mainstream?


This article will examine the construction, functions and relationship between the diverse and changing articulations of Islamophobia. The aim of this article is to contribute to debates about the definition of Islamophobia, which have tended to be contextually specific (and sometimes universalized), fixed and/or polarized between racism and religious prejudice, between extreme and mainstream, state and non-state versions, or undifferentiated, and equip those interested in the issue with a more nuanced framework to: (a) clearly delineate articulations of Islamophobia as opposed to precise types and categories; (b) highlight the porosity in the discourse between the more extreme articulations widely condemned in the mainstream, and the more normalized and insidious ones, which the former tend to render more acceptable in comparison; (c) map where these intersect in response to events, historical and political conditions and new ideological forces and imperatives; and (d) compare articulations of Islamophobia in two contexts, France and the United States of America, in order to demonstrate both contextual differences and overlap and the application of our analysis and framework
Mondon, A & Winter, A (2017) ‘Articulations of Islamophobia: From the Extreme to the Mainstream?’, Ethnic and Racial Studies. 40, 13
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