2023 04 06 Bolaji

Race and the Colour-Line: the Boundaries of Europeanness in Poland

Important Note

Registration required. Please note that all attendees must follow Columbia’s COVID-19 Policies and Guidelines. Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community.  To that end, all visiting alumni and guests must meet the University requirement of full vaccination status in order to attend in-person events.  Vaccination cards may be checked upon entry to all venues. 

Please join the East Central European Center and the Harriman Institute for a talk with Bolaji Balogun. Moderated by Christopher Caes.

This talk is based on Bolaji Balogun’s forthcoming book: Race and the Colour-Line: the Boundaries of Europeanness in Poland. In it, Balogun sets out the foundational ideas about race and colonialism in Poland and relates them to the global manifestations that influenced them. Focusing on race and colonialism, the talk indicates a shift in global racial discourse – an understanding of the specificity of Polish racism that can transform and add to our understandings of race in the West. In doing so, the talk offers a brief theoretical and historical context of race-making in the so-called ‘peripheral sphere’, whilst outlining the ways in which race and colonialism have been framed specifically in early modern Poland and its empire in the Atlantic world. To do this effectively, Balogun draws on archival resources – manuscripts, documents, and records – from Poland and other parts of Europe to theorize what he identifies as the three key manifestations of race and colonialism in Poland, namely Colonial global economyColonization; and Eugenics. These key manifestations allow me to recall discussions on race and colonialism from the margin to the centre in order to redirect them beyond the prevailing accounts of race and colonialism in the West. The talk excavates the veiled racialized and colonial structures within the Polish histories as a way of remapping the politics of race-making in Europe.

Following a race-conscious social analysis, the originality of this talk lies in tracing the specificity of Blackness in Europe, and the very particular, but often neglected case of Black people in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Whilst scholarly attention on Black Europe tends to focus predominantly on Western Europe, this talk expands on the growing decolonial scholarship on Black Europe and the experiences of citizenship, belonging and racialization of Black Europeans in understudied locations in CEE. In doing so, the talk provides a distinctive focus on Black Eastern Europeans, as part of the collective Black Europe experience. The talk builds on previous research by examining how wider societal factors such as race and racism, economic austerity, and the recent panic around ‘migration crisis’ continue to impact Black Eastern Europeans. Beyond this, the talk fills a gap in knowledge about non-white ethnic minorities and challenges the absence of key concepts that address essential issues related to race and colonialism in CEE.

Event Contact Information:
Eileen Huhn
(212) 854-6217


Apr 06 2023


12:00 pm - 1:30 pm


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Formats (virtual, in person, hybrid)



International Affairs Building (Columbia University)
420 West 118th Street


Columbia University - Harriman Institute
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