I am currently writing a book about commemorations of Muslim colonial subjects in the British and French First World War centenary. This monograph, entitled Mobilising Memory: Commemorating Muslims in the First World War Centenary, considers how a century-old conflict widely perceived as a European civil war remains a catalyst for constructing collective identity in two post-imperial, multicultural nations. The war itself was a global conflict in which soldiers and labourers from Asia and Africa waged war on three continents, in the service of European nations who contested global hegemony amongst themselves. Yet the years immediately following the Armistice were marked by the violent reestablishment of spatial divisions between Europeans and colonial subjects, the affirmation of racialised tropes, and the brutal repression of anti-colonial movements. One hundred years later, I find that collective memory of the war is global: acknowledging the war’s transnational character reveals the fluidity of state borders and the limits of state sovereignty. Further, memories of the war’s imperial character reveal the nation’s historical dependence on people it does not claim as citizens, and the contingency of national values and ideals. Yet these memories, I find, are marginal. The dominant narrative of Muslim colonial subjects at war writes the nation’s own idea of its contemporary self onto the past. In this narrative, empire is rewritten as multiculturalism, and colonial soldiers are lauded as “good Muslims” who establish the conditions under which contemporary Muslims might belong to the nation.
My second project, Race and Police Violence: Causality in Global and Individual Perspective, examines how the state acts to restore its moral authority in the wake of racialised state violence. Acts of state violence, I argue, betray the state's dominant idea of itself as a bearer of rights; arbitrator of law, order, and justice; and embodiment of an imagined community. Consequently, political discourse in the aftermath of state violence seeks to restore the state's legitimacy. Drawing from case studies in the U.S., UK, and South Africa, I conduct a critical discourse analysis of national political discourse following acts of state violence. I consider speakers' positions and intended audiences, as well as the context and reception of each speech. I also consider how political discourse draws borders between perpetrators and objects of violence, how it consolidates the intended audience and excludes others, and how it defines and rewrites 'national values'. My approach to data analysis will be both individual and global: rather than aggregating data on police killings, I will analyse a smaller sample of individual killings in detail. Yet through a critical analysis of the discourse surrounding them, I will also make sense of these individual killings as consequences of, and contributions to, global white supremacy.
A third strand of research concerns nostalgia. In my first paper from this project, I trace the history of nostalgia as theory and practice. I ask, further, whether nostalgia is inherently regressive, or whether it may, under some circumstances, work in tandem with utopian thinking to imagine a new society. The next stage of this project will compare representations of the past in centre-right political discourse and far-right white supremacist discourse.