New Democracy #4: Whose Europe Is It?

David van Reybrouck, Haroon Sheikh and Nira Wickramasinghe-Samarasinghe about inclusive citizenship.

Solidarity is a hot topic on Europe’s political agenda. Many politicians encourage us to show solidarity and embrace diversity. But how can we embrace diversity within Europe and increase solidarity when the core of many social issues in Europe are rooted in a systemically ignored global history extending far beyond European borders? Our colonial history set the stage for power structures and a discourse of inequality, which have remained in place long after the abolition of slavery and the independence of colonized countries.

In Europe, the colonial period has time and time again been framed as a Golden Age, a time of prosperity and development. In this frame, European countries ignore the dark side, the atrocities, the impact they have had on skewed power structures and existing inequalities today. We must not ignore the past, or merely change the words we use to talk about this past. We have to critically reexamine this past and take responsibility for it to change our perception of Europe today. In this panel debate we will discuss the notion of citizenship in different ways. In the light of history, but also by asking the question of who defines our borders, and what that means for our definition of citizenship.

The evening will be introduced by Belgian writer David van Reybrouck (author of Congo), followed up by philosopher Haroon Sheikh and historian Nira Wickramasinghe-Samarasinghe.

David van Reybrouck

David van Reybrouck, the author of the book ‘Congo: The Epic History of a People‘ and currently researching the impact of the Dutch-Indonesian colonial past on our current relationship with Indonesia. In the meantime, he wrote the essay Zink for the Boekenweek 2016 about the forgotten independent nation-state of ‘Neutral-Moresnet’. In 2014 Van Reybrouck published the pamphlet ‘Tegen Verkiezingen questioning the legitimacy of our representative democracy.

Haroon Sheikh

Haroon Sheikh wrote his PhD dissertation ‘Embedding Technopolis’ in philosophy, in which he describes the relation between modernization and tradition. He is a publicist and associated with the European think tank FreedomLab. He is also a researcher for Dasym Investment Strategies, where he focuses on emerging regions and new technologies.

Nira Wickramasinghe-Samarasinghe

Nira Wickramasinghe-Samarasinghe is professor of Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Leiden. Her research is focused on identity politics, everyday life under colonialism and the relation between state en society in contemporary South Asia. As a historian she uses her research to move beyond the frame of the nation-state and capture other dimensions of belonging. In 2014 she published the books ‘Sri Lanka in the Modern Age. A History of Contested Identities‘ and ‘Metallic Modern: everyday machines in colonial Sri Lanka‘.

During the evening Mitchell Esajas will read a column on the importance of the process of decolonization for the making of an inclusive and sustainable society in which Europeans from different cultural backgrounds can live together in solidarity.

Mitchell Esajas

Mitchell Esajas is co-founder of New Urban Collective, an Amsterdam based social enterprise with the mission to strenghten the socio-economic position of youth with a migrant background, especially those of African descent. Esajas works as a program manager of the master Medical, Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. In addition, he woks on social justice and solidarity across borders and boundaries as a member of the European Network for People of African Descent and the European Network Against Racism.


Evenement gegevens

Event details


  • Datum:
  • Adres: