22. 6. 2023

Racism or xenophobia? Tracing the category-making of racialized minorities across the Atlantic and their consequences

On 18-19 May Tina Magazzini presented at the roundtable conference “The Politicization of Xenophobia in Transatlantic Contexts: Past and Present”. The roundtable conference took place in Prague, was organised by the Prague Forum for Romani Histories ( and convened by Jonathan Wiesen (The University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Kateřina Čapková (Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences).

Summary of Tina’s presentation: Partly triggered by the Black Live Matters movement and by international debates on racism and discrimination taking place in the United States, the European Union developed for the first time in 2020 a “EU anti-racism action plan 2020-2025”, followed by the publication of “Common guiding principles for national action plans against racism and racial discrimination” and the set-up of yearly EU Anti-racism summits, to complement the instead better-rehearsed EU Roma policies and plans (the latest of which is the 2020-2030 EU Roma Strategic Framework), which have been in place since the early 2010s.

Compared to the 2000 Racial Equality Directive, the new anti-racism plan acknowledges structural racism and intersectionality and sets out not only a series of principles, but also of benchmarks and new bodies to tackle racism. However, ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ remain fairly undefined in the EU action plan, with racism and xenophobia used often interchangeably, acknowledging that there are many different forms of racism, including anti-black racism, antigypsyism, antisemitism, anti-Asian, or anti-Muslim racism.

Meanwhile, the 2020-2030 EU Roma Strategic Framework builds on the previous EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020, which was developed as a way to hold countries responsible for ‘their own’ Roma minorities (and, in so doing, reduce the incentives for Roma minorities to migrate westwards).

The increased interest in issues of discrimination and equality has generated a flurry of documentation, white papers, plans and legislation, yet the entanglements between racialized, ethnic and religious grounds for discrimination (as well as class, gender, sexual orientation and intersectional discrimination) remain relatively unexplored in the European context.

While a number of in-depth legal and policy analysis have been published on individual cases, there has so far been little comparative attention given at how the reasoning for categorizing minorities according to a specific criterion (religious, ethnic, racial, linguistic, national etc.) has developed in Europe as compared to the US, and what role such categories play in decisions regarding remedial actions.

This paper looks at how the category-making of minorities in Europe and in the US has developed over the past decades by drawing upon the different interpretation of minorities’ alleged need to ‘integrate’, and what that might mean for the construction of national identities that serve as benchmark for ‘integration’.  The aim is to contribute to the broader theme of the conference on the Politicization of Xenophobia in Transatlantic Contexts: Past and Present by juxtaposing the trajectories of the EU and the US to analyse how power structures have (so far) translated into different ethnic categories and types of structural inequalities.  

Photo: Tina presenting in Villa Lanna during the workshop “The Politicization of Xenophobia in Transatlantic Contexts: Past and Present”.