Recognising British bodies: The significance of race and whiteness in ‘post-racial’ Britain

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This article examines the significance of race in how nation is articulated by the white middle-classes in ‘post-racial’ Britain. In doing so, it highlights the centrality of bodies and informal markers of difference within processes of national recognition and reveals a normative expectation for British bodies racialised as non-white to perform or inhabit (particular kinds of) whiteness. Bringing insights from post-race theory and advocating a broad conceptualisation of whiteness as a set of relational ideas and codes, the article demonstrates that whiteness continues to shape and underpin dominant conceptions of Britishness – articulated by middle-class white Britons – even as they recognise people of colour individually, and to some extent collectively, as British. Since the role and symbolic power of the white middle-classes is often overlooked in discussions of Britishness, the article makes an important contribution to debates on race and nation, illustrating how whiteness continues to function in alledgedly ‘post-race’ societies. It concludes that narrow definitions of race and whiteness allow their continued significance to be under-estimated and ultimately enable the perpetuation of racialised hierarchies of belonging.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociological Research Online
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The work was supported by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC Studentship 1363516 and ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship ES/S010599/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Britishness
  • middle-class
  • nation
  • race
  • recognition
  • whiteness


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