Superdiversity through the lens of Brexit

Neal, Sarah and Cochrane, Allan (2022). Superdiversity through the lens of Brexit. In: Meissner, Fran; Sigona, Nando and Vertovec, Steven eds. Oxford Handbook of Superdiversity. Oxford Handbooks. Oxford University Press.



In the context of a turn to defensive nationalism in a number of countries, this chapter examines the ways in which superdiversity can be understood in relation to the United Kingdom’s 2016 referendum vote on its membership in the European Union (EU). The outcome of the referendum was a decision to leave the EU (generally labeled “Brexit”), a political event that has been widely interpreted as an articulation of English nationalism. It has driven a particularly intense period of social and cultural polarization of the United Kingdom, sharpening divisions, racialization processes, and antimigrant hostilities. While there has been much attention and focus on understanding why the Leave EU campaign was successful, less attention has been paid to interrogating the Remain vote. The political geographies of Remain often overlapped with geographies of superdiversity, and London in particular, and other more ethnically diverse areas, tended to vote for the United Kingdom to stay in the EU. Taking this relationship as a starting point, the chapter confirms the extent to which the Brexit project, as a form of defensive English nationalism, is unsettled and challenged by the lived experience of superdiversity, which suggests the prospect of a counternarrative that highlights the possibility of a politics of hope.

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