Building Solidarities for Anti-Racist Adult Education

4th Conference of the ESREA Migration, Transnationalism and Racisms Network at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland)

The unprecedented speed and scale of transnational migration is giving rise to complex, often contradictory, discourses, politics, policies and practices. On the one hand, there is global competition for talents that seems to be breaking down gender, racial and ethnic hierarchies on which older migration regimes were built. Wealthy countries are using migration as a strategy to compete for the most skilled and talented workers to fill gaps in their labour market and to replenish an aging workforce, draining resources from less privileged countries. Yet the skills, knowledge and competences of many migrants become devalued and delegitimised as the migrants attempt to enter education and employment.

On the other hand, the world, or more specifically Europe, has been thrown into turmoil by the refugee or migrant “crisis”, with refugees moving from the Global South to the Global North to try to escape war and poverty. The reality of the vast majority of refugees being hosted in developing countries, often in camps, is not usually part of the narrative and receives very little attention. Racist asylum deterrents and detention have become normalised as nation states attempt to secure their borders and national identities against the influx of the culturally different “other”. New racisms and distinctions emerge as people are sorted and classified as being more or less deserving: “genuine” refugees are still broadly tolerated but “economic” migrants and the “undocumented” are vilified and returned to the countries from which they have fled. Integration discourses promote a
stable and homogeneous “us”, and harness language and citizenship regimes to select which “others” are deserving of citizenship. Discourses and policies concerning immigration, especially the question of “burden sharing” and refugee “relocation”, have linked the politics of fear with the exploitation of socio-economic concerns of citizens and international power relations within the EU: a pattern visible in the non-solidarity approach of current governments in Central-East European countries. In short, transnational migration can create, reinforce, consolidate and disrupt power relations and inequalities.

In the face of growing and evolving racisms, anti-migrant and anti-Muslim sentiment this conference seeks to open a space for dialogue and critical reflection on the role of adult education. The context of migration has presented challenges for adult education: for example, the instrumentalising and neoliberal discourses of lifelong learning and citizenship education, which link learning to immigration policy and naturalisation processes, and the (mis)recognition of skills and knowledge of those from the South. Anti-immigration backlash and uncertainty about future labour markets in Western Europe have also affected CEE migrant workers, or served as a mobilization ground for right-wing populists and a new wave of nationalisms both in the West and in the East. At the same time, the context of migration has also opened opportunities for adult education. In the absence of political solutions, we have witnessed the growth of civil society, grass-roots activism and migration solidarity movements. These movements have to face complex challenges between acting in solidarity and struggling with enormous barriers, finding themselves not recognised or even under threat by right wing extremists. What can we learn from these mobilisations and what scope is there to develop local, national and transnational anti-racist solidarities?

This conference invites contributions which explore adult education and learning in all its forms (formal and informal), and locations (community, workplace, institutional), in relation to migration and the new lines of exclusion, social hierarchies and social solidarities that have emerged. Within the framework of adult education and learning, relevant topics might include:

  • The role of adult education (research and practice) in migration regimes
  • Critical approaches to the role of adult education in the acquisition of a national language in migration regimes
  • Strategic alliance building and the development of anti-racist initiatives
  • The challenges and learning processes in grass-root social movements and migrant organisations
  • How models of integration, resettlement and education policies shape activities and agendas of organisations, and the future which can be imagined for refugees and migrants
  • The strategies and pathways forged by transnational migrants as they confront everyday exclusions and racism in increasingly hostile environments
  • The contribution of adult education research and practice to building solidarities, anti-racism and learning for democracy
  • The gendered, classed and racialized nature of migration

Critical reflections on knowledge production and research into migration

Call for Papers (PDF).