It's true, I'm English... I'm not lying: essentialized and precarious English identities

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This article explores relationships between Englishness and racialization in order to consider the potential for English identities that are progressive in anti-essentialist or multicultural terms. The article draws on data from interviews in which people from a South London area talk about Englishness. I will examine how English identities are understood by participants who are white and participants who are not white. While white participants experience Englishness as a taken-for-granted identity, for participants who are not white English identities are a more calculated, precarious performance. I will then examine discussions of ‘who can be English’. While most participants argue that ‘anyone can be English’ in principle, this is not necessarily the case in practice. It will be suggested that talk of Englishness is particularly constrained by relationships between Englishness, whiteness and ancestry, but that for those who experience Englishness as precarious there are signs that this is not necessarily the case.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1448-1466
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number8
Early online date6 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • RCUK
  • ESRC


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