Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats

Maya Goodfellow

6-8pm, Wednesday 13th November 2019

Richard Hoggart Building (RHB) 137a

Maya Goodfellow will be in conversation with Ayeisha Thomas-Smith talking about the findings and themes of Maya’s new book Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats (Verso, 2019).

The UK government proudly calls the aim of its immigration policy to be the creation of a “hostile environment” while refugees drown in the Mediterranean and Britain votes to leave the EU against claims that “swarms”of migrants are entering Britain. Meanwhile, study after study confirms that immigration is not damaging the UK’s economy, nor putting a strain on public services, but immigration is blamed for all of Britain’s ills. Yet concerns about immigration are deemed “legitimate” across the political spectrum, with few exceptions. How did we get here? Maya Goodfellow offers a compelling answer. Through interviews with leading policy-makers, asylum seekers, and immigration lawyers, Goodfellow illuminates the dark underbelly of contemporary immigration policies. A nuanced analysis of the UK’s immigration policy from the 1960s onwards, Hostile Environment links immigration policy and the rhetoric of both Labour and Tory governments to the UK’s colonial past and its imperialist present. Goodfellow shows that distinct forms of racism and dehumanisation directly resulted from immigration policy, and reminds us of the human cost of concessions to anti-immigration politics.

Maya Goodfellow is a writer, academic and broadcast commentator. She has written for the New York Times, Guardian, the New Statesman and Al Jazeera, among others. She recently completed a PhD at SOAS, University of London, her research focused on race and racism in Britain.

Ayeisha Thomas-Smith is an activist, trainer and writer currently undertaking a PhD in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, researching neoliberal subjectivity in social movement infrastructure. She is a Senior Organiser at the New Economy Organisers Network, and leads on design and delivery of a national social movement training programme. Ayeisha co-founded KIN, a network for black activists working for collective liberation, and also presents the Weekly Economics Podcast, Economics with Subtitles for BBC R4 and The Why Factor for BBC World Service. She is currently editing a book on the lack of diversity in economics with Rethinking Economics.

This PERC event will be chaired by Aeron Davis, Co-Director of PERC.

All are welcome and no registration is required. For details on how to find Goldsmiths, click here.

Endorsements for Maya’s Book

‘An informative and insightful account of the history and politics of modern migration to Britain that is also very readable. Ranging across the intersecting histories of class, race, nation and empire, Maya Goodfellow deftly shows how the contemporary demonising of migrants, including refugees and asylum-seekers, has a long and dispiriting national and global backstory to it—but there are also heartening stories of resistance and solidarity which point to the way forward. Priyamvada Gopal, author of Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent

‘Maya Goodfellow has a sharp mind, a deep well of knowledge and a readable style. When she writes something, I learn something.’ Gary Younge

‘How immigrants became the scapegoats for injustices caused by the rich and powerful is one of the burning questions of modern politics. This masterful, wonderfully written, and vitally important book—written by one of the most powerful writers on race and migration today—more than does it justice. This book is essential to understanding the reactionary political upheavals which have swept the West.’ Owen Jones, author of Chavs