European cultural identities

Dr Asya Draganova - Birmingham School of Media

Centre for Brexit Studies Euro Identities Image 2 350x263 - People wearing European flags in a protest Brexit is a process of transformation whose precise directions and conditions are fluid and uncertain. Article 50, which would mark the beginning of the process of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, is yet to be triggered. At the same time, the ‘effects’ of the referendum vote for Brexit are already recognised across economic, political, and social constructs. Brexit as a possibility and a campaign, even before the referendum took place, reinforced a juxtaposition between perceived cultural formulations of ‘Britishness’ and broader European identities.

At the Centre for Brexit Studies, we suggest that there is a necessity to gain insight and detail in relation to the influence of Brexit on cultural identities, which are key to our individual and collective social interactions.  

We are interested in how Brexit has interfered with perceptions of ‘Britishness’ and ‘European-ness’ within multiple groups and communities which can be considered as directly affected by the on-going transformative processes. We would welcome and support research initiatives focused on attaining nuanced insight derived from British nationals within the UK and living abroad, as well as European and other diasporic communities within the UK.

For British nationals and residents, the Brexit vote has had divisive implications evident at all levels. From the more personal social circles including family, friendships, and local and professional communities, to the high-level political and organisational grounds, positions in relation to Brexit have been framed as definitive markers of identity. Separated into ‘Remainer’ and ‘Leaver’ categories, we are experiencing a polarising and alienating phenomenon.

As researchers, we suggest that it is worth carrying out studies which involving the voices of British nationals who may express different views in relation to the UK’s involvement with the European Union, and who are from diverse age groups, backgrounds, and geographical areas. This would allow us to attain a nuanced understanding of Brexit’s influence on the ways in which Britishness, as a part of or as opposed to a broader context of European-ness, is perceived.

While affecting British nationals, Brexit has just as significant and profound influence on European and other diasporic communities within the UK too, as immigration has been depicted as a debate central to deciding the future of the country in relation to the European Union and the European Economic Area. The discursive framing of immigration – a potent element to general election and EU referendum campaigns – alludes to stigmatising connotations, which may participate in the reinforcement of stereotypes attached to diasporic communities in the UK.  Within the context of Brexit, it is becoming urgent for research to address how individuals and diasporic communities perceive their everyday experiences of uncertainty and interpret their national, ethnic, and broader cultural identities within their life in the UK.

For example, we suggest that it is worth pursuing research including the voices of diasporic communities from post-communist European countries, which may consider themselves to be experiencing a ‘second class’, ‘inferior’ form of European-ness, where the perceived Cold War ‘East’ and ‘West’ divisions still linger. The stereotypical perceptions of ‘Eastern’ European communities, which may have been reinforced by Brexit, the campaigns leading to it, and tabloidised media content, have the potential of becoming internalised by the groups that they apply to. Within this field of discussion, we might be able to explore the formulation of ‘us’ and ‘them’ divisions consistent with variations of Said’s ‘orientalism’ (1978) and its ‘nests’ within Europe.

Pursuing research on Brexit’s implications in terms of cultural identities, we would also be able to gain understanding of how transformative and potentially divisive processes have also enabled new forms of social participation and engagement with the formulation of networks for the articulation of protest and resistance.  

The Research Centre’s stream aims to allow for holistic methodologies using multiple approaches. At the same time, the aim to attain detailed insight is consistent with qualitative research, particularly ethnographic strategies, which allow for deriving a ‘mosaic’ of diverse perspectives.