Situating Race in International Relations

  • Citation: Persaud, Randolph B., Geeta Chowdhry, and Sheila Nair. "Situating race in international relations." Power, postcolonialism and international relations: reading race, gender and class (2002).
    • Topics:
    • Human Rights
    • Keywords:
    • civilizational security
    • American immigration
    • racialized dynamics
    • nationhood
    • nativism

This chapter analyzes the ways in which the issue of immigration is seen as a security or civilizational threat to the United States. While the broadening of security studies has created room for discussions of immigration as a security matter, the focus has been generally limited to issues such as illegal entry and trafficking, and other matters pertaining to sovereignty, narrowly defined. But there is another dimension to this problem that needs to be explored, namely the cultural elements that inform nationhood. The demographic structures of western states have been undergoing notable changes, not the least on account of the substantial amounts of immigrants from former colonies, and more generally, the Third World. The presence of the new immigrants has caused considerable friction. Nativist anxieties have surfaced in practically all of the western states and groups dedicated to limiting entry and denying rights to those immigrants already present have increased significantly. There is substantial evidence of physical violence as well. The groundswell of opposition seems to be informed by some sense of the loss of nationhood by the nativists, and in many instances the immigrants are seen as a threat to the very existence of communities. In the case of the United States a good deal of the resentment against immigrants has been expressed in racial terms, and there are instances of explicit racist mobilization against the newcomers. These developments provide an interesting opportunity to explore the racialized dynamics at play in “defending the nation” against immigrants. To make more sense of what is happening in this regard, it is necessary to examine, on a broader scale, the presence of race in international relations.

Related Resources