Friday, November 3, 2017 | 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Engin Isin

Queen Mary University of London’s School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) and University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP)

UC179 – University College (map)

Brexit: a genealogy


The UK’s decision to leave the European Union may well become one of the defining moments of our times not only in the UK but also in Europe. But how defining it is and how to define it are more difficult than one imagines. Thinking historically about this moment forced me to revisit the periods in which the British Empire reorganised itself as a commonwealth, roughly between 1916 to 1948, which was itself a reconfiguration of an empire-state from the ruins of 1783 and 1914. This was followed by the rapid decline of the idea between 1948 and 1973. During the same period, the UK applied to and was rejected twice by the European Economic Community. After its entry into the EEA, the UK postwar migration policies increasingly clashed with the freedom of movement policies of the EEA and subsequently the EU. Throughout these periods British citizenship and nationality have been reconfigured in paradoxical but indelible ways that embody a specific logic of biopolitics governing a population and its movements. I will trace a genealogy of this logic by briefly focusing on key moments as a zigzag: 1783, 1948, 1962, 1926, 1981, 1973, 1992, and 2005.



Engin Isin is a professor and chair of International Politics at Queen Mary University of London’s School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) and University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP). Before he moved to SPIR/ULIP he held a chair in citizenship at The Open University (2007-2016) and a Canada Research Chair in citizenship at Toronto’s York University (2002-2006). He completed his first degree in city planning at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey (1982), an MA in Geography at University of Waterloo (1984), and a PhD in Geography at University of Toronto (1990). He has published on cities, citizenship, rights, empires, nations, and decolonial and digital struggles, and social movements. He has authored Cities Without Citizens (1992), Citizenship and Identity (with Patricia Wood, 1999), Being Political (2002), Citizens Without Frontiers (2012), and Being Digital Citizens (with Evelyn Ruppert, 2015). He has edited Acts of Citizenship (2008) with Greg Nielsen, Enacting European Citizenship (2013) with Michael Saward, and Routledge Handbook of Global Citizenship Studies (2014) with Peter Nyers. His latest edited book is Citizenship after Orientalism: Transforming Political Theory (2015). He is now working on various projects theorising ‘mobile people’, ‘doing international politics’, and ‘data’s empire’.

You can find more about his work at,,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s