Politics of race, identity examined through immigrant experience

The convergences of racism, decolonisation and migration are seen through the life of one Greek Cypriot immigrant to 1950s Northeast England, in a new book by a University of East Anglia (UEA) researcher.

The book, Colonial Citizenship and Everyday Transnationalism: An immigrant’s story, examines how colonial identity and the politics of race have shaped life in Britain from the past half-century through to the present day.

Dr Alexandria Innes based the book on the memoirs and life narrative of her Greek Cypriot grandfather, Nicholaos Charalambou Kanaris. A senior lecturer of International Relations in UEA’s School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies, Dr Innes’s research focus is at the intersection of security studies and migration studies, with an interest in gender and security, and in postcolonial citizenship and security.

The book comes at a time of turmoil for British immigration and, following the Windrush scandal, at a crucial moment for the politics of race and identity in the UK. It raises questions of how politics are embroiled in day-to-day life.

Making the unlikely move from Cyprus to a small industrial mining community on the outskirts of Newcastle in 1954, Nicholaos’s story gives a unique perspective on colonial politics as they affected his everyday life. The racial politics of Britain during the latter half of the 20th Century take centre stage, and the book explores how colonial politics continue to be relevant in today’s Britain.

The book also provides unique insight into everyday life in a mining community in Northeast England, through the eyes of a man who began as a foreigner, but became an insider.

Soon after emigrating to Wallsend, Nicholaos was drafted for national service, which he performed in the Tyneside coalmines, remaining in this profession for 30 years until he returned to Cyprus in the 1980s.

Dr Innes said: “The book demonstrates how an individual life is both subject to grand political events, but also contributes to making them. I hope it can help people identify the ways global politics are at play in their own everyday lives.”

Colonial Citizenship and Everyday Transnationalism: An immigrant’s story, is published by Routledge for the Interventions series.

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