School of Social and Political Science

What’s race got to do with it? Critical reflections on researching and teaching social policy


Date & Time

12.30pm - 3pm


40 George SQ, LG09



What's race got to do with it?


Despite having no scientific validity, race prevails as a structural force in social life with significant material consequences. However, reports on teaching at UK HEIs in social policy demonstrate that 'race' remains peripheral, if not invisible, in the current teaching and research of social policy (Williams, 2022; Craig et al., 2019; Meer, 2020). Furthermore, despite the current context of growing anti-immigrant nationalism, far-right populism, austerity, and welfare reforms, we are increasingly confronted with the idea of a 'post-racial' society, where race and racism are no longer seen as central to understanding well-being and inequalities in contemporary societies.

This seminar addresses this issue and is organized to coincide with the launch and delivery of the Race, Power, and Social Policy course at the University of Edinburgh. Bringing together leading scholars in the field of race, migration, citizenship, and social policy, the panel discusses the current methodological, conceptual, and political challenges in the study of race and social policy. Taking into consideration the deep yet malleable relationship of race to citizenship, borders, and the nation-state, this panel provides a critical pathway for engaging with and going beyond social policy in the way we understand difference and inequality and their embeddedness in legal and policy structures.

The panel will be chaired by Professor Nasar Meer and will feature Professor Fiona Williams, Professor Michaela Benson, Dr. Nadya Ali, and Dr. Hakan Seckinelgin. This event is supported by the Social Policy Association, Alwaleed Centre, and RACE.ED at the University of Edinburgh.


Lunch will be served from 12:30-13:00

Roundtable and discussion 13:00-15:00


Chair and Speaker Details

Nasar Meer (Discussant):

Nasar Meer is Professor of Sociology in the School of Social & Political Sciences., University of Glasgow, and former Director of RACE.ED at the University of Edinburgh. Nasar’s research is interdisciplinary and spans a number of topics that orbit around the study of citizenship. These include arenas of political participation, education policies, approaches to anti-discrimination, migration and asylum, public and media representation, and the ways in which collective membership is conceived and operationalized. His latest book The Cruel Optimism of Rracial Justice, looks at numerous examples across anti-racist movements and key developments in nationhood/nationalism, institutional racism, migration, white supremacy and the disparities of COVID-19, and argues for the need to move on from perpetual crisis in racial justice to a turning point that might herald a change to deep-seated systems of racism.

Hakan Seckinelgin (LSE):

Hakan Seckinelgin is a political theorist who has developed a multidisciplinary research programme by combining theoretical work with empirical studies. He is not happy to restrict looking for answers within limited disciplinary perspectives, because people do not live lives that are compartmentalized by disciplinary concerns.

Hakan’s work engages with the discussions for the decolonization of the curriculum in social policy. His work provides a contribution to discussions on decolonization on two fronts: (a) it highlights the internal dynamics of engagement with student demands in the context of a Higher Education Institution (HEI) and (b) the academic responses to students’ demands reveal an underlying mechanism that reproduces the status quo in the teaching of Social Policy.

Fiona Williams:

Fiona Williams is an Emeritus Professor of Social Policy, University of Leeds. Her roles at Leeds included Director of the ESRC CAVA Research Group on Care, Values and the Future of Welfare. Fiona’s publications have for many years been central to developing critical approaches to social policy. Her latest book Social Policy. A Critical and Intersectional Analysis (Polity, 2021) brings the global crises of care, climate change, and racialized borders to bear on an understanding of social policy.

Key speakers

  • Nasar Meer
  • Hakan Seckinelgin
  • Fiona Williams

Partner institutions

  • Social Policy Association
  • Race.Ed
  • The Alwaleed Centre