We will fight them on the centre ground, we will never remember: the Second World War, psychocultural repression and liberal configurations of modern British identity

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Abstract

This article argues that a form of what Sigmund Freud termed ‘abnormal repression’ (1910; 2014) writ large onto British cultural memory is essential to understanding several phenomena: firstly, the UK’s popular amnesia about the Second World War, a process that echoes Michael Billig’s proposition that ‘Historians creatively remember ideologically convenient facts of the past, while overlooking what is discomfiting’ (2014, p. 38); secondly, how such repression has informed contemporary political debates about British imperial and neo-imperial actions to Brexit to ‘rising anti-Semitism’ (Lentin, 2020); and thirdly, how a dialectic between these first two phenomena are patterning a British national identity proposed by the political centre. As Ernest Renan observes, mass-forgetting is ‘a crucial element in the creation of nations’ (1990, p. 11).
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Identities
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 3 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • Memory Studies
  • Liberalism
  • Second World War
  • Cultural Studies
  • English literature
  • Ideology

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