Britishness in the 21st century

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Posted on 18 June 2013

An international team of scholars will come together this Wednesday (19 June, 2013) at a one-day conference hosted by Keele University, to debate the meaning of  Britishness in the 21st century. 

Following on from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, the conference presents an opportune moment to  critically explore notions of Britishness and evaluate the key issues involved in formulating shared understandings of British national identity. They will consider the contradictions of British liberalism and imperialism and their legacies for national identity today.

In particular, does the association of Britishness with liberal values of due process, human rights and toleration present a distraction from persistent global associations of the nation with imperial practices of European history, which perhaps manifest in new and even more troubling forms of imperialism? With the British economy facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, to what extent is ‘humanitarian intervention’ via military activism, a new name for the old concept of imperialism and its associated control of resources?

What are the politics of inclusion and exclusion around reconstructed notions of Britishness in response? Does the liberal-multicultural emphasis on group rights and differentiated citizenship assist or hinder a project of Britishness? Does the label ‘Britishness’ promise support for liberal values of tolerance, fairness, equality and respect; or is this mere self-congratulation, obscuring extensive problems such as unequal resources and social misrecognition? Will teaching Britishness to young people support a stronger sense of inclusion in the processes of local democracy? And what value does Britishness hold in the context of internationalisation and globalisation?

Speakers include: Professor Pnina Werbner (Keele), Dr Nasar  Meer (Northumbria) and Dr Daniel Burdsey (Brighton). Details and the full programme of papers can be found at

For further information on the conference contact Professor Farzana Shain ( or Professor Bulent Gokay (