Research Event at Teesside University

Colleagues at Teesside University are continuing with the theme of nation and identity at their Citizenship, identity and patriotism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries symposium, to be held on 6th June 2013.  Their full an interesting programme includes papers by our very own Lesley Robinson and Andre Keil. For further details, including how to book, see their website: http://www.tees.ac.uk/sections/research/events_details.cfm?event_id=5267

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Workshop a success!

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Thanks again to everyone for attending the (Mis)representations of Britishness workshop. The standard of papers was extremely high, and enabled lively and interesting debates (well into the evening apparently!)

The notion of ‘Britishness’ is also the theme for the Formations and Representations of British National Identity Conference to be held at the University of Warwick on 19-20 September 2013. Click here for their website.

Closer to ‘home’, the next Political History Network seminar will take place on Tuesday 26 February 2013 at Newcastle University. Click here for their blog and contact details.

Workshop Programme Available Now!

The workshop is to be held in the Squires Building, Room 316 on Thursday December 6th. Please see our Workshop Programme for details of timings, papers and presenters, for what should be an interesting and thought-provoking day.

English, I mean Pommie…

Whereas I rarely ponder my ‘Britishness’ at ‘home’, my recent seven week stint in New Zealand made me more aware of the fluidity of my own national identity. From leaving Newcastle on my UK passport to entering NZ on my Kiwi one, I essentially switched ‘nationality’ en route. Yet when completing immigration forms along the way, I classed myself as British and residing in the United Kingdom. Conversely once in NZ, and in more informal settings, I always referred to myself as English and living in Newcastle (although stressing that I was not  ‘from’ Newcastle, which is a whole separate debate…) Whereas when I actually lived in New Zealand, I was more likely to label myself a ‘Pom’  in an effort to be an ‘in-betweener’.

So why did I feel so ‘English’ on this trip?  Perhaps because it was exactly that – a trip, and not a ‘migration’ – or was it that I was so aware of the events at ‘home’? Maybe it was the hype of the Olympics stories emanating from the ‘old country’, or my self-consciousness at being in New Zealand to research their history. Perhaps I felt like an interloper entering with a New Zealand passport, despite being away for nearly five years? Either way, a New Zealander felt able to bemoan the so-called lack of an ‘Anglo-Saxon Protestant work ethic’ in his industry to me, as if I would understand.

On a less philosophical level, whereas my Kiwi friends and I have always gently ribbed each other about our accents, this time my mannerisms were compared to that of Miranda’s (shown on prime time TV on Friday night, straight after Australia’s Kath and Kim…) Indeed maybe as I have got older I have become more English, as evident from this visit when I did something I have not done before. Not only did I specifically buy ‘British’ baked beans, but, gulp, I also ashamedly bought an international version of a British paper.  Yet, despite such relapses, I refused to start watching Corro again, the scheduling of which was, as usual, causing great consternation. (The Saturday double bill was being replaced with Come Dine With Me, so actually I can see their point..)

Despite such ‘Anglo-centricities’ I renewed by NZ passport and, despite spending my last morning in Auckland reminiscing with my north-eastern English friends about the opening of the Metro Centre in the 1980s (?), I then felt bereft at having to leave my other ‘home’. So, am I prone to mis-representing Britishness due to my dual-nationality, or more aware of the ambiguity of national identity due to the path my own research has taken?  Or perhaps more simply, spending time in the ‘Anglo-world’ enabled me to contemplate my own personal version of Britishness.

JK

Symbols of nationhood?

Following the recent wedding of one of the conference organisers, it seemed appropriate to reflect on some marital symbols of Britishness. Writers have drawn attention to the ‘invention of tradition’, not least through the example of the Scottish kilt, are such symbols really of less value for being invented?

A Scottish wedding – such as the one celebrated by one of us last week – guarantees a fine display of tartan. It seems such weddings become as much a celebration of all things Scottish as they are a celebration of the nuptials. There will be a Highland piper, most likely plenty of thistles and a ceilidh (which will probably end with a communal singing of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, ‘500 Miles’ by the Proclaimers, or the faux-Jacobite song ‘Loch Lomond’ by Runrig). In celebrating their marriage, many Scottish couples seem to call upon accepted and cherished notions of Scottish nationhood.

Leaving aside Walter Scott, it is interesting to ask why this is. Are there equivalents elsewhere in Britain, where personal relationships are marked not just by religious or civic traditions, but by displays of national or regional identity? In Northumberland, a black and white chequered tartan kilt is worn by some grooms and wedding guests, suggesting a culture and identity unique to the North East of England but which is also influenced by Scottish tradition.

If you look closely at the photograph above, the man dressed in the Scottish kilt and plaid is wearing a ribbon of English Northumberland tartan as part of his buttonhole. Is he Britishness personified?

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Food for thought….

Food for thought....

The ‘British’ selection in a supermarket in Dunedin, New Zealand. Does this represent our culinary tastes?

Why (Mis)representations of Britishness?

With Scotland gearing up for an historic national debate on its constitutional future and Englishness receiving timely academic attention, today ‘Britishness’ seems a more contested term than ever before. Recent conspicuous displays of Britishness, such as the royal wedding in 2011 and this year’s ‘Jubolympics’, have reignited popular and scholarly interest in the many competing national and regional identities of the British Isles.This has prompted us to consider the way in which academic study can be influenced by these identities.

The organisers of this workshop each have their own ideas about what Britishness means to them, making for numerous debates in the course of planning the event! Two Scots – each with opposing views about the future of the Union – and an Englishwoman with dual British-New Zealand citizenship, ensure a unique perspective on this hot topic.

We’re looking forward to hearing from postgraduate researchers from across these islands as we end a year of heightened national consciousness by debating the (Mis)representations of Britishness.