The complexity of colonialism: the example of the Rishi Altar

The complexity of colonialism: the example of the Rishi Altar

Election of British politician Rishi Sunak His job as Prime Minister of the UK Conservative Party aroused all sorts of comments, especially as some saw it as a so-called mirror of the great change in society and that country’s policy regarding ex-colonies. Topics Parvathi Kumaraswami, professor at the University of Nottingham and a member of our Advisory Board, has been asked to explain the true meaning and implications of this party appointment. We were also able to count on the collaboration of British journalist Ed Augustin, who is currently working as a foreign correspondent in Cuba.

In addition to thanking you for your analysis, to remind you of this opportunity A particular issue devoted to the “Colonial present” theme was collected. Colonialism, decolonization, postcolonialism,” by 2023. The Guest Editor is Gabriel Vignoli, Professor at New York’s New School of Social Research and a member of our Advisory Board.

The election of Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (United Kingdom) on 25 October 2022 caused all sorts of reactions not only in the British public but also in other parts of the world. Powered as always by the main social networks, the echo chamber, this wide range of voices and countervoices reveal complex sociocultural and political phenomena and dynamics. This article is an attempt to decipher some of them.

The election of Sunak sparked an avalanche of ideas and views, which are often superficial and polarized about what he represents for the political life of the United Kingdom. These momentary stances pouring out from social media platforms belong to the times we live in a lot, but they have a special dimension: Sunak’s ethnicity, that is, he is Indian.

Whether or not they like their political views (unlike their predecessors Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, Altar seems to hold a consistent view), many of these statements have to do with their cultural roots or physical appearance (which is the same after all). ethnicity or culture for some people). Memes galore about (and from) India: sandals left at the doorstep of 10 Downing Street (the Hindu tradition of removing shoes before entering a home); Downing Street #10, decorated with floral garlands and tropical leaves in a Hindu ceremony style; or a racist Brit turned into a corner shop overnight that sells everything 24/7 and is usually owned by an Indian, a Pakistani, a Bangladeshi – does it really matter where he’s from? In fact, sometimes the most basic, crudest clichés are not so different from the so-called deep, sophisticated, and objective analysis.

Almost all the reactions that have arisen in the United Kingdom are in some way a response to a sociocultural and ideological concern arising from the idea that Great Britain is a powerful and still functional empire, or that it is exhausted and dysfunctional. The social, discursive and material changes caused by Brexit; new (or recycled) ability to blame migrants, refugees, asylum seekers; Speeches celebrating white supremacy have taken on new life in recent years. And the election of Altar creates another opportunity to rehearse such speech and behavior. Even their conservative colleagues, white or not, who are the children and grandchildren of immigrants, participate in the “happy” task of blaming immigrants and spreading racist ideas.

At the same time, the cultural and ethnic origins of the Sunak are very specific and respond equally to a particular time, the conjuncture of contradictions and legacies arising from colonialism. First, his election and reaction show how identity politics has replaced the politics of equality and social justice; How diversity and inclusion as corporate brands replace debates, policies and actions to create a more equal society in diversity. Just as Barack Obama supposedly came to represent the possibility of empowerment for black people around the world and to show that racism does not exist in the United States, the Altar would represent the possibility that any person of color could become someone important. .

In reality, however, his background reveals very specific circumstances that may help explain his success, acceptance and policies, for it is clear that Sunak was not a member of any of the Indian diaspora.

In a recent article, intellectual Pankaj Mishra argues that Sunak embodies the talents and aspirations of that diaspora: high level of education, English ability, willingness to work hard.

A personal comment: My family, a product of the British empire in the sense of pre-1947 and post-1947 upper-middle class professionals who immigrated to England for professional reasons in the 1960s, embodied the same values ​​and talents, but they knew it. Regardless of their social class, they are very good at what it means to be a black immigrant in this new country.

But Sunak is the result of double immigration, and therein lies his success as an immigrant and that of his peers: they are the children of parents who settled in a third country before coming to England. In Sunak’s case, his father was born in Kenya and his mother in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), and they immigrated to the UK before little Rishi was born.

This is a pattern that has been repeated over and over in the political power spaces in the UK: current Home Secretary Suella Braverman suddenly said with complete clarity that her biggest dream was to see it published in 2019. Telegram (right-wing newspaper) photo of a plane bound for Rwanda’s new detention camps for unwanted immigrants (government’s new immigration policy). Braverman is the daughter of Indian parents settled in Mauritius (mother) and Kenya (father).

An incumbent predecessor, Priti Patel, was the person who devised the Rwanda Plan, whose official name is not devoid of post-colonial irony: the “UK and Rwanda Partnership for Migration and Economic Development” signed in April 2022. Patel is Indouganda’s daughter. Parents expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972. In other words, they are cases of colonial and post-colonial subjects who migrate (in India) to rise in the socioeconomic class at the expense of their work in African countries. and those who came to the UK conscious of their own cultural, racial and economic superiority, the result of other colonial phenomena.

This is why Sunak is prized as a success story by the bearers of Indian supremacism introduced by the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, not just as an example of a “good immigrant” (this could also be an example from India). grocery store), a corner that works hard 24 hours a day; by the way, maybe a Muslim), but the ideal Indian immigrant: educated, wealthy, cosmopolitan, member of the global elite, devoid of locality or tradition, and thus responsible for Brexit, forced migration, the growing social inequality gap, austerity and other social ills. capable of representing the party.

The story of Sunak and his election as the first person of Indian descent to this post by a party with a racist tradition is therefore quite complex. Alongside the Braverman and Patel cases, her obsession with her ethnicity serves to create a smokescreen that hides a world of injustice. They are people who have become millionaires using their enormous social and cultural capital (private schools in the UK and the United States, married couples combining their fortunes) and are committed to accumulating more capital. But at the same time, as they personally seized power (Altar and his wife are billionaires), they were co-opted by both the conservative party and the Modi government and its minions in the mainstream media. For Modi and his followers, the Altar and other “successful” Indians represent the new Hindu dream, combining personal wealth, cosmopolitanism, and respect for religious traditions. For the Conservative party, these numbers are examples that paralyze any debate about social inequality, institutional racism, post-Brexit British society.

Under the British Empire, the imperial powers seized the caste system of the Hindu religion to merge it with Western capitalism and developed a policy of “divide and rule” to make the most of their empire, positioning the highest castes as rulers and the lowest castes. We now see the consequences of these policies in their contemporary appearance: the good immigrant, the good Hindu, the black oligarch, the “Mahatma Gandhi of the corporate world,” as Sunak’s father-in-law describes it.

Amidst all this smoke, the control mechanisms that shape our current situation are hidden and forgotten: as Boaventura de Sousa Santos would say, the choice of Altar shows a special intersection of capitalism, racism, colonialism and patriarchy. To understand the complex manifestations of colonialism and neocolonialism in the 21st century, it is time to turn to the analysis of class, not just color.

#complexity #colonialism #Rishi #Altar

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