Multicultural country/side? : visible communities' perceptions and use of the English national parks
Despite the ever-growing debate regarding multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, and hybrid and multiple ethnicities, this PhD contends that the Imaginary of England as a multi-ethnic nation is, explicitly and implicitly, tied to the urban sphere, while rural space and imagery are (re)iterated as a monocultural white. Moreover, the construction of a dominant national identity embedded in this rural 'idyll' space inherently racialises Englishness as white. These productions of rurality and nationality are then caught up in processes of social exclusion - physical and emotional - that impact non-white groups' access to the countryside. In order to unpack the issues related to ethnicity, national identity, rurality and social in/exclusion, this thesis examines people from Asian and African Caribbean backgrounds' use and perceptions of the English national parks. It incorporates a range of theoretical standpoints, and draws extensively from quantitative and qualitative research undertaken in the North York Moors and Peak District national parks, and proximate cities of Middlesbrough and Sheffield respectively. In particular, the fieldwork engaged with Asian and African Caribbean communities, and explored understandings of ethnicity, nationality, and 'belonging' in English rural space. Through the theoretical and empirical appraisals, I argue that there is a need to hold the structures of day-to-day life that affect 'visible communities', and the power differentials implicated in those structures, in tension with relativist understandings and performances of identity involved in people's everyday negotiations in society. I also call for a non-reductive gaze that does not routinely explain and expect visible communities to be marginalised 'rural others' (from a dominant white 'norm'). From such a perspective, I suggest an agonistic approach (after Mouffe) to policy-making, which recognises difference alongside similarity and acknowledges the ineradicabilityof adversarial belief systems. This approach demands adopting a 'radical openness' to social in/exclusion, enabling us to work towards a transformative 'sustainable multiculturalism'.