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Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Racialized Affectivities of (Un)Belonging: Mixed (Race) Couples in the Shadow of Brexit

Abstract

This paper explores the affective economy of (un)belonging, revealed by the UK decision to withdraw from the European Union (EU). Emerging social science research on so-called `Brexit' focuses on the anticipated effects of a stricter UK immigration regime on the lives of EU citizens and families. Against the background of the country's postcolonial melancholia, and drawing from my ethnographic fieldwork in England (2018-2019), this paper discusses how British and mixed-migration status, mixed (race) couples narrate the impact of the poll's outcome on their affective orientations towards the UK and the EU. It shows how race inflects partners' different perception of Brexit as a historical rupture or as an event in a continuum; as a loss of entitlement to mobility in space, or of the legitimacy of permanence in place; as a lingering danger, or a magnifier of existing patterns of violence. By putting Black and mixed-race partners' narratives center stage, this paper traces three scenes of expression of their perceived contested and precarious belonging: the ordinariness of racism in the UK, the mistrust in the durability of the boundaries of inclusion drawn by the British state, and a heightened alertness for fear of escalating racist and homophobic violence.

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Genealogy

Author

Elena Zambelli (Netherlands)

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