Asylum after empire: postcolonial legacies in the politics of asylum seeking

Asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented migrants often draw attention to the global colonial histories which give context to their present situation. And yet these connections are rarely made by academics. This presentation explores aspects of my recent book ‘Asylum After Empire: Postcolonial Legacies in the Politics of Asylum Seeking’. The aim of the book is to begin theorising asylum policy within the context of such histories; to make sense of contemporary public policy developments on asylum within the context of histories of colonialism. The book is a historical sociology which brings together postcolonial and decolonial theories on the hierarchical ordering of human beings, troubling the supposedly universal category of ‘man’ within the epistemological framework of ‘modernity’, and naming the response of the British state (which acts as the case study) to contemporary asylum seekers as an example of the coloniality of power. It is an attempt to make sense of the dehumanisation of asylum seekers not as racism, but as enmeshed within interconnected histories -of ideas of distinct geographically located ‘races’, of human beings as hierarchy organised in relation to civilization, and of colonial power relations. In this sense, I am taking as my starting point the sophisticated analyses of forced migrants and sans-papiers and elaborating their conclusions with academic study.