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English identity and ethnic diversity in the context of UK constitutional change.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date1/06/2006
JournalEthnicities
Journal number2
Volume6
Number of pages36
Pages123-158
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

At the time of the devolution settlement in the UK, there was widespread concern that the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales would prompt a rise in English identity at the expense of British identity and, in turn, threaten polyethnic constructions of citizenship. Such presumptions typically rested on reified understandings of the category labels British and English, and conflated the construct of national identity with the constructs of territorial belonging, social inclusion and citizenship. Post-devolution survey data do not currently reveal a decline in British identity in England. Measures of attachment to Englishness vary as a function of ethnic origin of respondent, but also as a function of question wording. A qualitative interview study of young adult Pakistani-origin Muslims in Greater Manchester, north-west England, illustrates how Englishness may be understood to pertain variously to an exclusive cultural or racial category, or to an inclusive territorial entity or community of political interest. Ethnic constructions of English identity need not imply exclusive understandings of citizenship, but their meaning depends crucially on the ways in which nationality and identity are in turn understood in relation to matters of polity and civil society. Conversely, inclusive understandings of national identity do not guarantee the existence of effective ethnic integration or substantive ethnic equality.