National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life

National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life

National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life

National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life

Synopsis

The Millennium Dome, Braveheart and Rolls Royce cars. How do cultural icons reproduce and transform a sense of national identity? How does national identity vary across time and space, how is it contested, and what has been the impact of globalization upon national identity and culture?This book examines how national identity is represented, performed, spatialized and materialized through popular culture and in everyday life. National identity is revealed to be inherent in the things we often take for granted - from landscapes and eating habits, to tourism, cinema and music. Our specific experience of car ownership and motoring can enhance a sense of belonging, whilst Hollywood blockbusters and national exhibitions provide contexts for the ongoing, and often contested, process of national identity formation. These and a wealth of other cultural forms and practices are explored, with examples drawn from Scotland, the UK as a whole, India and Mauritius. This book addresses the considerable neglect of popular cultures in recent studies of nationalism and contributes to debates on the relationship between 'high' and 'low' culture.

Excerpt

National identity persists in a globalising world, and perhaps the nation remains the pre-eminent entity around which identity is shaped. In this book, I want to explore the relationship of national identity to popular culture and everyday life. For although there have been numerous studies of nationalism, few have examined the more mundane aspects of national identity. Dominant theories of the nation are concerned with political economy and history, and the national cultural elements they refer to are either in the realm of high culture, are the ‘invented traditions’ and ceremonies concocted many years ago, or are versions of folk culture. These are reified notions of culture, which, while certainly still relevant, are only a small part of the cultural matrix which surrounds the nation. Curiously, despite the rise of Cultural Studies as an academic discipline, few have attempted to address the more dynamic, ephemeral and grounded ways in which nation is experienced and understood through popular culture. And similarly under-explored, the habitual, unreflexive routines of everyday life also provide fertile ground for the development of national identity. Thus the cultural expression and experience of national identity is usually neither spectacular nor remarkable, but is generated in mundane, quotidian forms and practices. As Bennett asserts, Cultural Studies is concerned with ‘practices, institutions and systems of classification through which there are inculcated in a population particular values, beliefs, competences, routines of life and habitual forms of conduct’ (1998: 28). And yet these concerns have rarely focused upon national identity.

The existing literature on national identity provides little guidance in exploring this dense and murky cultural realm and so it is necessary to utilise a different set of theoretical tools. I have chosen a range of ideas that have recently emerged in social and cultural theory to try and suggest that the national is still a powerful constituent of identity precisely because it is grounded in the popular and the everyday. I have thus drawn upon contemporary theoretical insights from studies into identity, space, performance, material culture and representation. The book is organised around these key themes, and, while I do not want to claim that these are evidently the most appropriate foci for the exploration of national identity, I believe that they provide a useful range of interrelated contexts which suggest that national identity is dynamic, contested, multiple and fluid. This might suggest that if it is so protean then it must be weakening. I want to emphasise that this is far from the case, and that this diversity, the multitudinous cultural effects, and the flexible symbols of the national produce an enormous cultural resource that is . . .

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