A moral economy of whiteness: behaviours, belonging and Britishness

Garner, Steve (2012). A moral economy of whiteness: behaviours, belonging and Britishness. Ethnicities, 12(4) pp. 445–464.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796812448022


This article outlines the complex stories through which national belonging is made, and some ways in which class mediates the racialisation process. It is based on fieldwork on the ways in which white UK people in provincial cities construct identities based on positioning vis-à-vis other groups, communities and the nation. I argue that this relational identity work revolves around fixing a moral-ethical location against which the behaviour and culture of Others is measured, and that this has a temporal and spatial specificity. First, attitudinal trends by social class emerge in our work as being to do with emphasis and life experience rather than constituting absolute distinctions in attitudes. Second, in an era supposedly marked by the hegemony of ‘new’ or ‘cultural’ racism, bloodlines and phenotypes are still frequently utilised in race-making discursive work. Third, in provincial urban England, there is a marked ambivalence towards Britishness (as compromised by Others) and an openness to Englishness as a more authentic source of identification.

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