1st Edition

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

By Bolaji Balogun Copyright 2024
    248 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Race and the Colour-Line addresses the foundational ideas about race and colonialism in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and reconnects them to the global manifestations that influenced them. Focusing on race and colonialism, this book indicates a shift in the global racial discourse – an understanding of the specificity of Polish racism that can transform and add to our understandings of race in the West. Drawing on archival resources – manuscripts, documents, and records – from Poland and other parts of Europe, the book offers a compelling theoretical and historical context of race-making in the so-called ‘peripheral sphere’, while outlining the ways in which colonialism has been framed specifically within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and its empire in the Atlantic world. Following a race-conscious social analysis, the significance and originality of this work lie in tracing the specificity of blackness in Europe, and the very particular, but often neglected case of black people in CEE. To chart all this commendably, premised on critical race studies, the author uniquely explores the everyday racialized experiences of people of colour from Sub-Saharan African descent living in contemporary Poland and brings to the fore the obscurities of race and racism in the country. Through ethnographic research, the author shows how these particular people perform multiple identities in their daily lives as part of the configuration of a racially complex society. The demonstration of the ‘globality of racism’ in this book examines the phenomenon of race beyond its usual context in the West, and as such will appeal to scholars from a range of disciplines including Sociology, Geography, Anthropology, Postcolonial, Polish, and Slavic Studies.



    PART ONE: Locating Poland within the racialized ‘Boundaries of Europeanness’

    1 Eastern Europe: the ‘other’ Geographies in the Colonial Global Economy 1569 - 1795

    2 Polish Lebensraum: the colonial ambition to expand on racial terms 1880s - 1930s

    3 Eugenics, Race, and Nation formation in Central and Eastern Europe 1900s - 1940s

    PART TWO: Living with experiences of race and racism

    4 ‘Polish-Centrism’: Making sense of ‘race’ and racism in Poland

    5 Introducing and Recontextualizing Racial Microaggressions in Poland

    6 Nacjonalizm – ‘the Polish national character’

    Epilogue: Demystifying race and racism in Poland




    Bolaji Balogun is a Sociologist based in the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield, UK, where his research focuses on Colonization, Race, and Racialization in Central and Eastern Europe, with a specific focus on Poland. He holds the prestigious Leverhulme Trust ECR Fellowship. He is a visiting Scholar in the Department of International Relations at Krakow University of Economics, Poland, and previously held the Leverhulme Trust Fellowship Abroad at the same University in Poland. He is also a visiting Scholar at The Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, City University of New York, United States. He received his Doctorate from the University of Leeds, UK.

    ‘Taking its cue from W. E. B. DuBois’ prophetic remark that ‘The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line’, Bolaji Balogun explores how religion, nationalism, colonialism and an obsession with the nation-state had shaped the self-identification and the racialised positionality of modern Poles as white. Race and the Colour-line is a much needed book, which recovers the hitherto neglected histories of race and eugenics, while skillfully demonstrating how the racialization of Black people intersects the color line across the ideological boundaries of Europeanness in Poland. It should become mandatory reading for all those who want to understand the intricate relation between the construction of race and whiteness in East-Central Europe and beyond.’ - Marius Turda, Professor in 20th Century Central and Eastern European Biomedicine, Oxford Brookes University, UK

    Race and the Colour-line sets the agenda for future research on race and racisms in Central and Eastern Europe. Through the combination of ethnographic and archival research, it locates the present-day production of race and racisms in Poland within longer global histories of race and colonialism and their local manifestation. In this way, Bolaji Balogun demystifies race and racism in Poland and shows why this matters for making sense of the lived experiences of people of colour living within its borders.’ - Michaela Benson, Professor in Public Sociology, Lancaster University, UK

    Race and the Colour-Line is a ground-breaking book that challenges conventional wisdom and reshapes our understanding of race, colonialism and nationalism in Poland and in Central and Eastern Europe. Through meticulous research and powerful theoretical insights, this remarkable book uncovers hidden realities and provides a critical examination of the global nature of racism, offering a fresh perspective that questions the notion of Poland being free from racism and imperialism. By exploring the specific manifestations of racism in Poland and shedding light on the often overlooked experiences of Black people in the region, the book disrupts established beliefs and calls for a re-evaluation of our perspectives. This extraordinary work boldly navigates the complexities of race, colonialism, and the misconceptions surrounding Poland, compelling readers to critically engage with the global reality of race and racism.’ - Krzysztof Jaskułowski, Professor of Sociology, SWPS University, Poland