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Immigration and welfare chauvinism: Britain since 1800

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Duration: 0:42:37 | Added: 01 Dec 2011
Professor David Feldman, historian, describes the "welfare chauvinism" existing in Britain since the 18th century.

By this he means that welfare systems were maintained but reformed so as to exclude 'outsiders' (internal and international migrants). He refers to Britain's 'poor law' and the development of the welfare system up to the late 1990's, to include or exclude migrants. He also discusses the argument that welfare states need to be founded in a 'homogenous' society, and that that homogeneity is institutionalised. Migration scholars and NGOs have often sought to disassociate popular associations between criminality and immigration: migrants are not criminals, nor are they necessarily more likely to commit crime. But this risks ignoring important relationships between immigration and criminality, both 'immigrant' and 'criminal' for example, are set in opposition to the (good) citizen, both are important administrative categories for states, and comprise groups upon whom the state can exercise significant degrees of coercion. Both are highly racialised. There are also historical continuities: mobility has long been associated with criminality, through vagabondage and the problem of 'masterless men', gypsies and Roma, and 'illegal immigrants'. Both groups can share social and political disabilities - in the US former prisoners are not eligible for further education grants, cannot access welfare payments or food stamps, and in 10 states, are denied the right to vote for life. This seminar series will interrogate the relation between immigration, criminality and citizenship, by exploring these issues.

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