European Colonial Entanglements: Questions of Historical Sociology and Progress


  • Gurminder K. Bhambra School of Global Studies, University of Sussex


modernity, nation-states, empires, colonialism, European values, refugee crisis


The European project of modernity is usually associated with the development of nation-states (of citizenship bound to territoriality as Weber put it), but is better understood as founded through colonial endeavours, that is of empires rather than nations. In this context, the ‘modern’ is, in fact, the ‘colonial modern’, where territoriality involved domination and preferential inclusion for ‘domestic’ populations within a racialized political community across borders. This has implications for how we think about sociology and its associated concepts and categories. In this contribution, I question the association of Europe with progress and seek to demonstrate how the very structuring of our discipline makes it difficult to account for illiberal practices both within and outwith the continent. Whereas ethno-nationalism is usually perceived as a feature of postcolonial ‘new’ nations, we can also understand it to be a feature of Europe after (and through) empire. A ‘connected sociologies’ approach that recognizes Europe’s constitution through colonialism would provide us with more adequate resources for dealing with the problems that currently face us. 


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Bhambra, G.K. 2019. European Colonial Entanglements: Questions of Historical Sociology and Progress. Komplexe Dynamiken globaler und lokaler Entwicklungen. Verhandlungen des 39. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie in Göttingen 2018. . 39, (Sep. 2019).