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Representing, resisting and reproducing ethnic nationalism: Official UK Labour Party representations of ‘multicultural Britain’.

Research output: Working paper



In this paper I argue that any attempt to resist racialization needs to take account of the complex and often paradoxical ways in which notions of race and culture come to be articulated in conjunction with categories of nation, state and society. In the first half of the paper I consider some of the strategies used by UK Labour Party Ministers to counter ethnic representations of British identity by promoting the fact and value of post-Imperial Britain as a ‘multicultural society’. In the second half of the paper I consider some tensions within these arguments. First, I consider how the rhetorical formulations that the speakers use to justify the political project of UK multiculturalism implicitly presuppose a natural order in which nations are populated by a racially and culturally homogenous people. Second, I consider how their prescriptive recommendations that ‘we’ recognize and celebrate ‘our’ ethnic diversity do not in practice seek to establish the ultimate fiction of ethnic nationalism as a general ideological principle, but rather treat the fact and value of ethnic diversity as a uniquely British asset or virtue, in a manner that closely echoes the selfcelebratory rhetoric of British imperialism. Despite the claim that an ethnically neutral understanding of ‘British society’ will necessarily also entail a rejection of ‘insular nationalism’, paradoxically these banally nationalized liberal utopian discourses of multiculturalism are in some respects more Anglocentric and less internationalist than the explicitly racialized versions of British identity promoted by the far right British National Party.