Verticalities of the Mega-Event: The Israeli Giro D’Italia


Samuel Mutter is an MPhil/PhD researcher in the Department of Politics at Birkbeck, University of London. His interests include issues of urban politics, security, space and aesthetics, while his current research project examines the governance of circulation and disruption on the London Underground network.


The 2018 edition of the Giro D’Italia, one of the three ‘Grand Tours’ of men’s professional cycling – alongside the Vuelta a España and, of course, the Tour De France – began in unusual fashion. Rather than starting in any part of Italy, the cyclists set off from the Western, Israeli-controlled side of Jerusalem. The 2nd and 3rd stages were also held in Israel – from Haifa to Tel Aviv, and then from Be’er Sheva to Eilat – before the race returned to more familiar territory for the 4th stage in Catania, Italy. At first, this could simply be taken as an indication of the sport’s increasingly global reach and popularity (while in France, its homeland, it has begun to be thought of as out of date; an old man’s game). Indeed, this is by no means the first time the opening stage of a Grand Tour has set off from abroad. In its 101st edition, this was the 13th time the Giro had started outside Italy. Nor are the other Grand Tours strangers to foreign beginnings: the ‘Grand Depart’ of the 2014 Tour de France, for instance, was held in Leeds, Yorkshire, before making its way south to London, and skipping across the channel.

However, two things make the Israeli Giro stages stand out. First of all, unlike the UK, where cycling as a sport (as well as a middle-class urban lifestyle; all lycra, sourdough, and frothed milk) has boomed over recent years – especially since the success of the Great Britain track team in the 2012 London Olympic velodrome, and the subsequent Tour de France victories of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome under the auspices of Team Sky (asthma and Jiffy bags notwithstanding) – Israel cannot be said to be in the grips of cycling fever. While thought of as a trendy way of getting around in Tel Aviv, the country has little to no historical pedigree in biking as a competitive sport.[1] If the Israeli Giro is representative of an infectious uptake of cycling in Israel, it is not the symptom but the first case.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Shilliam’s Undeserving Refusal. Or, why a relational politics of liberation was always (is always) possible

This post, guest authored by Lisa Tilley, is part of a symposium on Robbie Shilliam’s new book Race and the Undeserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit and follows related contributions by Robbie, Sara Salem, Naeem Inayatullah, Luke de Noronha, and Rick Saull.

 

The white working class was first made in the colonies

The white working class, as an unjustly temporally displaced and materially deserving collective (the “left behind”) has become more notably prominent in the collective consciousness from left to right since Brexit. The re-centring of this political construct tells us how much is at stake in understanding this particular configuration of race and class at this conjunctural moment in Brexit Britain and beyond. In Race and the Undeserving Poor, Shilliam’s historical recovery informs us that this white working class, as a political constituency, was first made in the colonies and therefore needs to be comprehended in historical colonial relation. In other words, this formation can only be understood by means of a travelling analysis, one which crosses hierarchies as much as historical and geographical space.

Continue reading

Seeing Class through Race: Britain’s Racialized Moral Economy and the Construction of a ‘White Working Class’

This post, guest authored by Rick Saull, is part of a symposium on Robbie Shilliam’s new book Race and the Undeserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit and follows related contributions by Robbie, Sara Salem, Naeem Inayatullah, and Luke de Noronha.

 

Race and the Undeserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit, is a major and timely intervention that addresses the development of Britain’s social order and class relations through the vectors of empire and race. Shilliam offers a distinct and compelling account of the racialized moral economy that has defined Britain from ‘abolition to Brexit’ and through which he seeks to historicize, contextualize and explain the Brexit referendum result. However, there is much more in this book – and far more than I can do justice to in this contribution – than an explanation of Brexit. In a prose infused with both a scholarly clarity and a burning sense of social justice, Shilliam charts the way in which race and racial signifiers have been deployed as a means of determining those who are included and excluded as ‘deserving’ of political recognition and access to welfare goods.

Continue reading

The mobility of deservingness: race, class and citizenship in the wake of the ‘Windrush scandal’

This post, guest authored by Luke De Noronha, is part of a symposium on Robbie Shilliam’s new book Race and the Undeserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit and follows related contributions by Robbie, Sara Salem, and Naeem Inayatullah.

 

My core argument, then, is that elite actors have racialized and re-racialized the historical distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor through ever more expansive terms that have incorporated working classes, colonial “natives” and nationalities. Elite actors have always been driven in this endeavour by concerns for the integrity of Britain’s imperial – and then postcolonial – order. That has been the case from Abolition to Brexit.

(Shilliam, 2018)

Robbie Shilliam’s book – Race and the Undeserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit – offers a rich genealogy of race and class in British politics. It helps us read Brexit, and the widespread invocations of the ‘white working class’ as ‘left behind’ with renewed historical perspective. The book offers up some co-ordinates for a richer critique of the times we are in, providing ‘a history of political domination told through the moralizing discourses and rhetoric of the undeserving poor’. Shilliam’s analysis is sharp and clear, his writing to the point, and his insights profoundly generative for those of us wrestling with cognate questions. He states:

“Deservedness” is a racialized discourse and rhetoric that works to consistently offset the disorders necessarily engendered in the pursuit of empire’s capital. Put another way, political domination in (post)colonial commercial society leaves its trace in the racialization of the underserving poor.

In my reflections on the book, I will not try to summarise its many arguments or its elegant movement through historical periods. Instead, I want to think about its argument in relation to the ‘Windrush scandal’. For me, this is not just about adding a postscript to the text, which was written before the Windrush debacle, but is intended to open up some additional questions about race, class and deservingness in relation to mobility.

Continue reading

Wooden Stakes: In Response to Robbie Shilliam’s Race and the Undeserving Poor

This post, guest authored by Naeem Inayatullah, is part of a symposium on Robbie Shilliam’s new book Race and the Undeserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit and follows related contributions by Robbie and Sara Salem.

 

 

Wooden Stakes[1]

I devote most of my words to Robbie’s conclusion because it is only here that I can play the role of academic critic rather than the admiring fan that I really am.  I don’t mind being the appreciative follower.  But on a first reading of this book, I worried that I would have little to say except for delivering a kind of abstract praise.  I am not one of those readers who understands everything all at once.  I need to re-read books.  For example, it is only on the third reading that I am coming to terms with Robert Vitalis’ White World Order, Black Power Politics.  I built a course around Bob’s book so I could re-read it.  And, I am re-organizing my “Introduction to International Relations” course so that it synchronizes with how Vitalis presents the history of race relations and the history of political economy.

Continue reading

Race, nation and welfare: Eugenics and the problem of the ‘anti-social’ citizen

This post, guest authored by Sara Salem, is part of a symposium on Robbie Shilliam’s new book Race and the Undeserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit

 

Deservedness is a racialized discourse and rhetoric that works to consistently offset the disorders necessarily engendered in the pursuit of empire’s capital. Political domination in (post)colonial commercial society leaves its trace in the racialization of the undeserving poor.

 

The 2016 Brexit vote brought to the surface of British politics issues of race, migration, economic inequality and sovereignty. In particular, a narrative around the “white working class” quickly became a central focus point of many Brexit debates, most often in an attempt to understand why a certain demographic voted leave. Not only did this obscure the largely middle-class support for Brexit, thereby displacing what was in hindsight seen as a regressive political decision, but it also took the category of the “white working class” as an empirical given. Robbie Shilliam’s new book, Race and the Undeserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit, is an impressive and comprehensive attempt to trace the genealogy of this concept, and to place it within legacies of British imperialism.

Continue reading

Feminist labour at the ISA: White manels, the politics of citation and mundane productions of disciplinary sexism and racism

This piece is co-authored by a Feminist IR collective (Linda Åhäll, Sam Cook, Roberta Guerrina, Toni Haastrup, Cristina Masters, Laura Mills, Saara Särmä and Katharine A. M. Wright).


At the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention in San Francisco this April there were, as usual, many all-male panels. However, while they remain prevalent, the number appears to be decreasing at ISA at least. At the same time as ‘manels’ have been challenged both within the discipline and more broadly, attention has been given to the gender citation gap, whereby men benefit from ‘a significant and positive gender citation effect compared to their female colleagues’. International Relations is no exception here, women tend to cite themselves less than men, and men (already overrepresented in the discipline) are more likely to cite other men over women.

We were surprised then to find that a panel titled ‘Citation Is What We Make of It! Towards a Theory of Citation and the Implications of Citation Practice for IR Knowledge and Production’ at ISA featured not only no women on the panel, but, as it later transpired, no discussion of the gendered or racialized geographies of citations. Moreover, one of the panelists has published in International Organization on this very issue. As a result, the politics of citation practice was mysteriously absent. Laura Mills’ tweet questioning whether this was ‘some subversive performance art beyond [her] ken’ received significant attention. We attended the panel, some due to our interest in citations and others out of curiosity about subversiveness at ISA. Our presence as feminist scholars was noticeable, since we far outnumbered the four other audience members. From our perspective, the interactions around this panel were illustrative of the ways in which even those who on the surface appear to address such issues, can fall into a trap of talking past them. They can in fact reify a pernicious politics, which characterises IR as just the sum of its citations.

A Limited Vision of International Relations

The vision of IR the panel presented was both particular and exclusionary. It focused both on a narrow understanding of what IR is and of who is seen to ‘do’ IR. As Jess Gifkins has pointed out, IR more broadly is “‘cannibalistic’ (of other disciplines) and ‘slow’ (amongst other things)”. It creates ‘new turns’ without acknowledging that this knowledge has already been produced in cognate disciplines. These traits were exemplified in this space not only through the composition of the panel, but just as pertinently through the myth of IR they spoke to. An elitist IR where citation practices are the measure of contribution, and one whose contributions are siloed away from other relevant knowledge which might challenge them. Yet, the panel title and the questions posed in the call for papers for the panel suggested this could have provided an important space to address these issues.

The panel title – ‘Citation is what we make of it!’ – prompts consideration of what was being ‘made’ on a panel on citation practice and its implications for knowledge production in IR. How ironic that the panel not only failed to consider the politics of their own citation practices in the papers presented, but also failed to consider the very idea of IR produced as an effect of such utterances! Arguably an IR premised on exclusion, silencing and erasure when no mention of race or gender appeared in any of the presentations. Outside of our prompting during the Q&A, there was little to no reflection of why they began and ended their reflections on citation in IR where they did, why these might be the ‘most pertinent’ conversations, and what ‘vision’ of IR was being produced as an effect. Surely a panel title invoking critical reflection on citation would also prompt some kind of self-reflection. Therefore, the title also prompts consideration of what the implications of these practices are for what ‘counts’ as ‘legitimate’ ‘knowledge’. It points to the incessant gatekeeping of particular kinds of scholarship as ‘knowledge’. For who is this ‘we’ that has the privilege to ‘make’ of citation what it will?

All-male, all-white panels cannot be separated from the broader structural inequalities of our discipline which manifest themselves in particular and pernicious ways at ISA. Why? Because when women and people of colour are absent from the stage, their contributions are also made invisible. Manels reinforce the notion that white men are ‘experts’, marginalizing the authority and experience of others. The racism, sexism, and ableism embedded within IR as a discipline become all the more visible at this conference. This particular and exclusionary vision of what (and who) IR is communicated by the panel support, rather than challenge, these wider inequalities. As Marysia Zalewski writes in reference to all-male panels at the ISA in 2015: “Why is it that resistances to curtailing sexism, misogyny and racism remain so strong? Few in a field of study such as IR would simply say “no” to the call to curtail these violences. But many choose not to notice and not to think. Or to choose to be unthinking, even offended when such violences are pointed out. And in effect to not see the violence at all or acknowledge its viscous place in our power-drenched institutional structures.”

Indeed, the very use of the language of violence to describe manels could be met with further resistance. It would be all too easy to respond that to speak of violence as enacted in and through the ‘mundane’ site of the conference panel is to descend to hyperbole. Continue reading