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“It sounds unwelcoming, it sounds exclusive, but I think it’s just a question of arithmetic really”: the limits to white people’s anti-essentialist perspectives on the Nation

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Analysing data from qualitative interviews, this article demonstrates how white people's constructions of national identity in England destabilise but ultimately reaffirm essentialist, exclusionary boundaries. The first set of findings presented demonstrate the ways in which normalised associations between whiteness and Englishness are regularly, temporarily unsettled through empirical, experiential and ethical processes of reflection, only to be finally regulated back towards dominant, racialised understandings. The second set of findings presented demonstrate that for a minority of white participants who construct the nation in ways that more effectively challenge and destabilise racialised understandings, they nevertheless still normalise difference in relation to the nation-state boundaries of Britain. While racialised boundaries of the nation are often, to varying degrees, problematised by many white people in England, essentialist nation-state boundaries remain virtually unchallenged in discussions of national membership.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4
Number of pages1
JournalSociological Research Online
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2013

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