The end of Britishness? ICCHS research into identity, heritage and museums in the context of the Scottish Referendum.

Photo of couple dancing at a ceilidh..

Couple dancing at a ceilidh. Photo: Abdelhamid Alhassi (2011).

After months of intense debate and speculation, Scottish voters have woken today to the news that Scotland will remain in the United Kingdom. Announcements from politicians in both Holyrood and Westminster this morning show that, despite the majority No vote, the results have major implications for people living on both sides of the Border, particularly as questions of Englishness and political representation become more prominent.

Discussions of heritage and a shared sense of identity (whether Scottish or British) have been present within both the Yes Scotland and Better Together campaigns and it will be fascinating to watch whether discussions of cultural distinctiveness or similarity continue in the next few years. A number of research projects undertaken by staff at ICCHS have examined the relationship between heritage and identity in the UK and European context that further our understanding of these issues.

Katherine Lloyd’s PhD research analyses the way in which young people in Scotland negotiate issues of place and heritage in the formation of national identity. Her work unpicks common assumptions about the relationship between British and Scottish identities for the younger generation, by examining the multiple and shifting forms of place identification amongst this group. It also explores the role of ethnicity in shaping understandings of identity and considers the responses of young people to the visual ‘tartan and turban’ imagery frequently associated with so-called ‘New Scots’. In doing so, it interrogates the clear cut distinctions made between so-called ‘civic’ and ‘ethnic’ forms of Scottishness frequently seen in political debates. See Kat’s recent article ‘Beyond the rhetoric of an “inclusive national identity”: Understanding the potential impact of Scottish museums on public attitudes to issues of identity, citizenship and belonging in an age of migrations’ in the special Scottish Issue Cultural Trends: 23 (3).

Rhiannon Mason’s book Museums, Nations, Identities examines the role of museums in the formation of national identity in Wales. Other articles examine broader questions of the representation of various aspects of Britishness, Englishness and Scottishness. More recently, she has also looked at questions of postnationalism, cosmopolitanism, and globalisation and the implications of these pressures for the future of national museums.

Whatever your thoughts on the results of the referendum, this is an exciting time for research on heritage and national identity in the UK and wider European context – watch this space for further updates and analysis!


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