Locating Britishness? : mediating identity, ethnicity, community and place in multi-ethnic Swindon


This thesis explores how Britishness as nationalism, patriotism or national identity, and media come together in a local multi-ethnic urban population in Swindon, an ordinary English town. Providing a counterpoint to the elite political interest in Britishness from the 1990s onwards, it takes an ethnographic approach to the ways that "Indian Sikh", "Polish" and "English" adults of prime working age (30-55) draw upon both news content (media discourses) and life experience (experiential knowledge) in ordinary conversation and interviews to experience and define Britishness. It also looks at local and diasporic belonging, identities, and physical and conceptual 'communities'. The thesis uses a statistical survey to situate ethnographic and conversational analyses in a wider quantitative context. Theoretical context is provided through an interdisciplinary approach, connecting anthropological, sociological, and social psychological theories of identity, ethnicity, community, nation, diaspora and belonging with the media studies and media anthropology literature on consumption of news content, news talk and the articulation of identities. The thesis breaks away from historical discourses of Britishness that excluded ethnic minorities and emphasised difference by treating all informants as citizens and residents of the British nation. It also breaks away from community and ethnic- minority studies which locked their informants into single neighbourhoods or ethnic communities by taking a town-wide perspective emphasising common experiences of residence. It moves beyond media-centric studies which attribute undue importance to the influence of the media by splitting general talk from news talk, and engagements with media discourse and experiential knowledge in an approach termed 'discursive construction ism' . To meet these goals, it analyses two pan-ethnic case studies of general talk and news talk at local and national levels. The first shows how general talk about a sense of place in the town connects thematically with the most discussed stories from the local paper. The second shows how talk about routine national news prompts a series of critical commentaries about politics and society that are interlaced with discourses of nation and identities. Three ethnically-separate case studies show how engagements with 'extraordinary' international news stories from British and diasporic television news allow informants to construct identities and' symbolic communicative spaces' in the international frame. Altogether they enable a view on how individuals use different information resources to make sense of who they are, where they belong and the other people around them.EThOS - Electronic Theses Online ServiceGBUnited Kingdo

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This paper was published in OpenGrey Repository.

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