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Identifying the British John MacInnes University of Edinburgh Univeristat Autònoma de Barcelona.

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Presentation on theme: "Identifying the British John MacInnes University of Edinburgh Univeristat Autònoma de Barcelona."— Presentation transcript:

1 Identifying the British John MacInnes University of Edinburgh Univeristat Autònoma de Barcelona

2 Well now, look, let us try and start with a few figures as far as we know them, and I am the first to admit it is not easy to get clear figures from the Home Office about immigration, but there was a committee which looked at it and said that if we went on as we are then by the end of the century there would be four million people of the new Commonwealth or Pakistan here. Now, that is an awful lot and I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture and, you know, the British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in. Margaret Thatcher 1978 Jan 27, Granada TV Interview

3 Earl (Stanley) Baldwin (1926) the sight of a plough team coming over the brow of a hill, the sight that has been seen in England since England was a land, and may be seen in England long after the Empire has perished and every works in England has ceased to function, for centuries the one eternal sight of England

4 …just about every central question about our national future …. can only be fully answered if we are clear about what we value about being British and what gives us a sense of direction as a country. … the core values of Britishness … we do not love our country simply because we occupy a plot of land or hold a UK passport but also because that place is home and because that represent values and qualities – and bonds of sentiment and familiarity –we hold dear. … the UK has always been a country of different nations and thus of plural identities – a Welshman can be Welsh and British just as a Cornishman or woman is Cornish, English and British – and may be Muslim, Pakistani, or Afro- Caribbean, Cornish, English and British… Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Speech to British Council, July 2004.

5 Three types of variable Straightforward –Age, sex, birthplace, mother tongue... Complex but definable –Occupation, industry, income, class Hopeless –Ethnic group, national identity

6 Nation / Ethnie Not capable of definition Indefinability is essence of raison detre Indexical nature of language –Same term means different things –E.g. Are you a doctor Emic categories –Category boundary construction depends on observer/ social actor E.G. Census pre-test on ancestry and culture






12 (White) Ethnicity Census 2001 England / Wales –British –Irish –Any other white Background Scotland –Scottish –Other British –Irish –Any other white background Northern Ireland –White –Chinese –Irish Traveller –Indian –Pakistani –Bangladeshi –Black Caribbean –Black African –Black Other –Any other ethnic group

13 I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is so unsure of his Welshness that he needs a tick box to affirm it. Allan Rodgers, (Labour, Rhondda) to Simon Thomas (Plyd Cymru, Ceredigion) (House of Commons Hansard Debates 30 Oct 2000 col. 574.)

14 Meaning of British in LFS questionnaire Pertaining to UK state Pertaining to mainland British state (excl Ireland) Pertaining to territorial area of Britain Pertaining to nation inclusive of others Pertaining to nation exclusive of others White Pertaining to cultural or other background qualifying group defined by skin colour




18 The British in Britain Gordon Brown100% Brit. Soc. Att. Survey (ethnicity)90% Labour Force Survey (ethnicity) 89% Brit. Soc. Att. Survey (any n.i.)67% Brit. Soc. Att. Survey (best n.i.)43% Labour Force Survey (nat. identity) 37% Brit. Soc. Att. Survey (Moreno)10%

19 The British in Scotland Gordon Brown100% Scot. Soc. Att. Survey (ethnicity)97% Labour Force Survey (ethnicity) 94% Scot. Soc. Att. Survey (any n.i.)57% Labour Force Survey (nat. identity) 23% Scot. Soc. Att. Survey (best n.i.)20% Census of Population (ethnicity)7% Scot. Soc. Att. Survey (Moreno)4%

20 BSAS 2003



23 Britishness as an emic category Order of categories –ONS study Presence of tick box –Wales, Scotland. BSAS v LFS Hints about meaning –Does British mean white? –Dual Identities Asking twice: Pride What does Britishness mean Englishness and Britishness

24 The problem starts when one expects to find identity within the body or mind of the individual. This is to look in the wrong place for the operation of identity. … To have a national identity is to have a way of talking about nationhood. … only if people believe that they have national identities, will such homelands, and the world of national homelands, be reproduced. … Nor is national identity to be explored by taking a scale from the psychological library of tests and administering it to a suitable populations. … National identities are forms of social life, rather than internal psychological states; as such, they are ideological creations, caught up in the historical processes of nationhood. Michael Billig Banal Nationalism (1995)

25 There is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and recent record in sports. Erving Goffman, Stigma (1963)

26 The identity categories of successive censuses from the late C19 up to the recent present show an extraordinarily rapid, superficially arbitrary, series of changes, in which categories are continuously agglomerated, disaggregated, recombined, intermixed, and reordered (but the politically powerful identity categories always lead the list). … as the colonial period wore on, the census categories became more visibly and exclusively racial. … [however] the census-makers…[kept] their eyes modestly lowered to their own colonial borders. B. Anderson Imagined Communities, 1991 164-5)

27 Conclusions Census and surveys do not create racialisation or discrimination Censuses and surveys should ask about ethnicity Censuses and surveys DO crystalise categories. It is disingenuous to present these as owned by minority groups thus defined! Analysis and presentation of ethnic results should be better monitored





32 Scotsman 1979 (1) Let us take as a premise that it is desirable to sustain the unity of the UK. Indeed, our close and cousinly links with the English, our affection for them and respect for their culture, the degree of domestic, social and economic intercourse between us - these facts make separatism (a pejorative word for independence) unthinkable.

33 Scotsman (2) We have no written Constitution. As a nation we may have a temperamental aversion to anything too rigid and restrictive. We also have a distaste for systematic constitutional change, though we are perfectly capable of writing constitutions for other people, sometimes, as in the case of West Germany, with considerable success. …

34 Scotsman (3) As a nation we have produced a long line of administrators of the highest calibre. We have an experienced Civil Service. We have a legal system rooted in a distinctive tradition. Our Labour movement, so often portrayed as a sinister and threatening monster, is strongly influenced by its Christian traditions. And our religious history, in which presbyterianism imbued almost every area of life, has left us with an ingrained belief in democratic principles.


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