Discourses of Englishness in the contemporary era

  • Stuart Cartland

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis undertakes a critical examination of contemporary narratives of Englishness. More specifically, dominant discursive representations and understandings of English national identity informed by a conservative ideology are investigated. This will be situated within a framework of current social, cultural and political events which are informed by a prevailing and prevalent trend of a sense of English grievance and a growing politicisation of Englishness that is articulated in the contemporary moment, but is informed through the recent past and ongoing processes. This contemporary moment, in terms of the formation of dominant discourse of Englishness, is formed through a symbiotic relationship within a specifically historicised narrative of identity which is informed by and draws from past events within the context of the present. Moreover, recent developments and ongoing processes such as Brexit, devolution and immigration can offer a useful illustration of a specific politicised narrative through which such key contemporary but also historical topics are viewed but how they in turn inform a very specific conceptualisation and discursive representation of Englishness as an increasingly politicised identity. This work will theoretically analyse the use of discourse and ideology as a means to determine and critically understand dominant narratives, perspectives and interpretations of English national identity and the forces and processes driving this within the current, or rather contemporary moment. Indeed, a range of discursive representations such as shifting identity allegiances and formation, public and social attitudes, political policy, direction and statements, dominant media representations and articulations of identity will be studied and analysed as a means to determine whether a sense of Englishness has become politicised and to what extent. This thesis will specifically outline the argument that in the current discursive environment a mediated understanding of Englishness and English national identity is dominated by a specific conservative interpolation, interpretation and narrative. This critical examination will apply existing theoretical and empirical knowledge, in particular around the areas of nationalism, national identity, multiculturalism and post-imperial identity formation, this will then be synthesised and applied within the perimeters of discursive representations of Englishness in the rapidly developing terrain of political, social and cultural flux, uncertainty and conflict as a nodal point of reference and being that England is located within. The fluidity, confusion and intersectional politics of identity within the English context requires an urgent need for critical investigation and demystification. The very crux of this research is not to try to locate some definable sense of English national identity, but instead to uncover and demystify the dominant defining characteristics and critically understand the discursive forces and symbolic positioning that define this topic area. Within the contemporary context discourses of English national identity operate within a specific sense of insecurity of identity, one that is characterised by a sense of defensive exclusivism where concepts of national identity are defined by symbolic lines of demarcation which are ideologically motivated and managed to provide a dominant sense of what England means and what Englishness represents.
Date of AwardMar 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

Cite this