Sociology – Topic 5 National Identities

Notes on national identity for AS sociology

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Pete Emma Rudd BMA
17th October
Sociology ­ Topic 5 National Identities
What is national identity?
National identity ­ Is what someone identifies themselves with it could
be their country, region of origin or to do with their religion.
Nation ­ A population assumed to have a shared identity and culture
based on their common descent and historical homeland.
State ­ Public institutions with legal powers over a given territory and a
monopoly of the legitimate use of force.
Nation state ­ A territory run by a sovereign government and based
mainly (but not solely) on a single nation.
Mann's Work on the Nation State
Michael Mann (1986) states that maps did not always have clearly defined
separate territories. It wasn't until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that
they were separated with clearly marked boarders.
Values Associated with British National Identity
Respecting the law
A strong work ethic
Human rights
Fairness and tolerance
Socialisation into National Identity ­ Schudsen's Study
Schudsen identifies the ways in which people are socialised into a common
national culture and identity. Some examples are below:
Education ­
In British schools English literature and religion tend to promote
national identity. E.g. Shakespeare is often referred to as the greatest
playwright. Also the Education Reform Act (1988) stresses Christian
worship in schools, despite the fact that the UK is a multicultural society.
A Common Language ­
Language is central to our sense of cultural identity as we use it to
express ourselves and communicate with others. Some commentators
have suggested that one aspect of British identity is our reluctance to
learn foreign languages.
National Rituals
Guibernau and Goldblatt state that national identities need to be
reaffirmed and up help at regular intervals. E.g. Royal and state
occasions are used to reinforce the British way of life, which the public
are invited to take part in, usually via television. Rituals untie us in
Britishness. Other uniquely British rituals are:
The changing of the guard.
The State opening of Parliament.
Royal weddings and funerals.

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Pete Emma Rudd BMA
17th October
The Queens televised Christmas speech.
Bonfire Night
Guibernau and Goldblatt argue that symbols are powerful
indicators of national identity. These might include styles of dress,
uniforms, passports, styles of music, national anthems, and particularly
flags. E.g. The Union Jack is a symbol for Britishness.
The Mass Media
On the whole television, magazines and newspapers encourage
people to identify with national symbols. I.e. the royal family by taking a
keen interest in their activities.…read more

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Pete Emma Rudd BMA
17th October
Nationalism ­ A movement or doctrine, which stresses the rights to
autonomy and territory of a nation.
Everyday nationalism ­ Nationalism that expresses itself in
attachment to the nation and its citizens.
Inclusive nationalism ­ People in this category that do not draw tight
boundaries around membership of the British nation.
They are willing to include certain marginal groups.
Exclusive nationalism ­ People in this group place strong emphasis
on national boundaries.…read more


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