Skip to main content
Who Do We Think We Are?

S2 E7 European Identities from the Aliens Act 1905 to Brexit

9 Dec 2022

Who is unquestionably European? From Brexit to the war in Ukraine, this question has come to the fore as people of colour have found themselves disproportionately questioned as they try to exercise their rights as European citizens. We’re joined by Bolaji Balogun (University of Sheffield) and Marius Turda (Oxford Brookes) to discuss the longer history of migration between Europe the UK, how this history interplays with the development of immigration controls in the UK (and elsewhere), and the development of European identities from the early twentieth century to the present-day.

George and Michaela consider the disproportionate challenges that European people of colour have faced in securing their post-Brexit status through the EU settled status scheme. In our explainer, Michaela explores the social and political context that led to the development of the 1905 Aliens Act. And in conversation, Bolaji and Marius introduce us to the role of eugenics and race science in the development of early immigration controls in the UK and how this set the stage for the racialised exclusions at the heart of contemporary immigration controls and governance practices across Europe.

You can access the full transcripts for each episode over on our website Who do we think we are?

In this episode we cover …

  1. The Aliens Act 1905
  2. Eugenics, race science and immigration controls
  3. European identities and Whiteness


The ways in which migration and citizenship are processes of inclusion and exclusion at the same time. As a citizen you think you're actually free to move around. But the same process of citizenship has been used to actually exclude and to reduce also, what you can have access to and what you canot. And actually eugenics provided tools for that to actually happen. —Bolaji Balogun

We attach so much importance to historical myths of origins. And those continue to fuel, often negatively, fantasies of belonging. And white supremacy and whiteness is based on the fantasy of belonging, these ideas have never gone away. — Marius Turda

Find out more about …

Bolaji and his work, follow him on Twitter, and read his paper Race, blood,and nation

Marius’s work on The Eugenics Podcast, follow him on Twitter, and read his paper Legacies of Eugenics

Dahaba Ali Hussen’s struggle for EU settled status

Black Europeans, the organisation documenting systemic racism in the EUSS scheme

Call to action

Follow the podcast on all major podcasting platforms or through our RSS Feed.

To find out more about Who do we think we are? On our website, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.