Constructions of Europe in the run-up to the EU referendum in the UK

Andreouli, Eleni (2019). Constructions of Europe in the run-up to the EU referendum in the UK. Identities: global studies in culture and power, 26(2) pp. 241–259.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1070289X.2018.1486091

Abstract

The paper reports on a focus group study on representations of Europe, conducted in England in the run-up to the UK EU referendum. Four themes were identified in the analysis: ‘cultured Europe’; ‘little Europe/global Britain’; ‘Europe as a cultural threat’; and ‘Eastern vs. Western Europe’. Analysis of these themes showed that Europe was an ambivalent identity category that could encapsulate contrary ideas such as cosmopolitanism/isolationism and cultural enrichment/undermining. Europe’s relation to Britain was also ambivalent in the data. Britain could be positioned as superior to Europe, sometimes being seen as closer to the ‘European essence’ in the context of the EU’s eastward expansion, which was seen as diluting European culture. But, Britain could also be seen as backward compared to the idea of cosmopolitan continental Europe. These different lines of argument and their ideological underpinnings are explored in the discussion of the findings.

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