Speaking to power: Tony Blair, complex multicultures and fragile white English identities

Wetherell, Margaret (2008). Speaking to power: Tony Blair, complex multicultures and fragile white English identities. Critical Social Policy, 28(3) pp. 299–319.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0261018308091271

Abstract

This paper reflects on one example of knddowledge transfer conducted by the ESRC Identities and Social Action Programme which involved briefing Tony Blair for his December 2006 speech on multiculturalism and extremism. Two key themes in the report prepared for Blair and his speech-writer are described — the nature of contemporary complex multicultures and the `fragility' of white English identities. These are contrasted with themes in Blair's speech which, in general, celebrated (white) British national character and took a traditional `divided communities' perspective on UK multiculturalism while introducing further measures to encourage `integration'. The paper describes the dilemmas and challenges faced in formulating a report for this context, in particular issues about developing a narrative in a highly contested field, complicity with power and credentials to speak. It argues, too, that although ostensibly an exceptional opportunity, more mundane acts of knowledge transfer might be more effective.

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