November 2018

New Research: From mood to movement: English nationalism, the European Union and taking back control


From mood to movement: English nationalism, the European Union and taking back control

Dr. Jack Black

Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research

Abstract

This article considers whether the 2016 EU referendum can be perceived as an English nationalist movement. Specifically, attention is given to examining how memories of the former British Empire were nostalgically enveloped in anxieties regarding England’s location within the devolved UK state. The comments and work of Enoch Powell and George Orwell are used to help explore the link between nostalgia and anxiety in accounts of English nationalism. Despite their opposing political orientations, when considered together, it is argued that both men provide a unique cross-political perspective on Englishness, empire and nostalgia. By way of exploring these themes in relation to the EU referendum, Aughey’s assertion that English nationalism can be perceived as both a “mood” and “movement” is used to highlight how a sense of English anxiety regarding its lack of national sovereignty (mood), as well as a desire to reclaim this sovereignty by renegotiating trade relations with the “Anglo-sphere” (movement), were conjoined in the popular referendum slogan, “take back control”. In conclusion, it is argued that the contextualization of the referendum can be predicated upon an orientation to empire that steers away from glorifying pro-imperial images of England/Britain, towards a more positive and progressive appropriation of the EU referendum as a statement of national change and belonging.