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Title: 'Can anyone be English?' : racialisation, nationalism and English identities
Author: Leddy-Owen, Charles
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis explores the extent to which Englishness and English identities are racialised. Using data drawn from semi-structured, qualitative interviews, evidence is found for an enduring association between Englishness and whiteness. A large majority of white participants identify as English and construct English identities as if a taken-for-granted part of the self. For participants who are not white, on the other hand, only a minority identify as English, and those that do feel that they can only do so precariously. This association between Englishness and whiteness is, however, far from explicit for most white participants, for whom the association is only tacit and usually unintentional. The thesis opens up new understandings about the complex and insidious ways by which the racialisation of Englishness can be unintentionally, performatively obscured. It will be demonstrated that racialised, exclusionary perspectives can be most effectively unmarked and obscured by white middle-class participants. In contrast, participants with a devalued sense of self, particularly white working-class participants, find it more difficult to construct unmarked racialised perspectives, despite there being no discernible difference in the exclusionary character of the English identities they construct. The thesis also explores whether there is any evidence for genuinely progressive, anti-essentialist English identities. Evidence is found suggesting that some white participants are disrupting the racialised boundaries of Englishness but that they nevertheless construct nation-state boundaries which are ultimately no less essentialist and exclusionary. The thesis will demonstrate that while racialised boundaries are at least problematised for many participants, no such pattern of problematisation is found in relation to nation-state boundaries and anti-migrant rhetoric. However, more encouragingly, two participants who are not white employ the sense of racialised precariousness they experience in relation to Englishness in a way that effectively contests the validity of essentialised, racialised and nationalist, distinctions. These participants demonstrate that if the meaning of Englishness is constructed as precarious and open to question, rather than as if determined in advance by discourses of race and nation, then some hope for genuinely progressive English identities remains.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available