Notes on Democracy, Violence, and the Global Color Line

Event date
25 May 2023
Event time
15:30 - 17:00
Oxford week
TT 5
Wharton Room - All Souls College (and online)

Prof. Vanessa Barker, Stockholm University

Notes & Changes

Please note that this event will be recorded, if you do not wish to be part of the recording, please feel free to turn your cameras off once the talk begins. The talk will be made available on the Criminology website and YouTube channel at a later date. 


Registration closes at midday on Wednesday 24th May. The Teams link will be sent to you that afternoon.

This talk aims to bring together two streams of research on violence and democracy—from the dirty work of the state itself to the rise of the far right. Both developments pose significant challenges to the people and principles of democratic societies as states come to rely increasingly on repression—hard borders and harsh punishments-- to respond to crime, migration, and problems of order. Many scholars have argued that it is the emergence of right wing populism that has transformed what are otherwise good societies into meaner, leaner, and even more authoritarian like regimes. These factors are certainly at play. Yet, when we shift our focus from the internal dynamics of domestic politics and examine transnational social processes more closely, we may come to a different understanding of these anti-democratic threats. Inspired by W.E.B. Du Bois, when we take a more global perspective, we can see more clearly the imperial character of democracy as it exports violence to regulate, control, and block unwanted mobility. This violence, normalized through border control, is racially structured, multi-scalar, and brings together what seem like countervailing forces--good societies and bad actors—to enforce a global color line.

Empirically, this talk will focus on Sweden, one of the least likely cases to embrace the far right, more prisons, and closed borders. It is nevertheless engages in enforcing its own color line at home and abroad through a process I call Stockholmsvit, the white washing of its history and reproduction of racialized violence


Prof. Vanessa Barker

Vanessa Barker is Professor of Sociology at Stockholm University and current editor in chief of Punishment & Society. She is the author of Nordic Nationalism and Penal Order and The Politics of Imprisonment; she writes on questions of democracy and punishment and borders and global mobility. She received her PhD at New York University, has been a visiting scholar at University of Oslo, University of Oxford, a LAPA fellow at Princeton University, and taught at Florida State before moving to Sweden. 

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