The enduring legacy of empire: post-imperial citizenship and national identity(ies) in the United Kingdom

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Abstract

It has become increasingly popular for political leaders of post-empire states, including the United Kingdom, to pronounce the period of critical reflection of their respective states’ imperial legacies at a close. This emphasizes concern in many states, particularly post-colonizing states, about inculcation and saliency of national citizenship and ascription to an inclusive civic identity of increasingly diverse and multicultural communities of citizens. Gordon Brown’s call for the promotion of a positive British imperial legacy belies a growing sense of unease that post-imperial states have been over-exposed to critical reflection of their imperial periods, both from within the former imperial core and its postcolonial periphery, and from third-party states who have deliberately undermined any positive imperial legacy for political purposes. Therefore, whilst political leaders and other commentators continue to acknowledge the need for post-imperial contrition, it has become politically expedient to (re-)state the positive contribution and legacy of empire within both the post-empire state and its former colonies, and even to mourn the passing of empire itself. Undoubtedly, post-colonizing states such as the UK are presented with a complex range of transitional challenges in reforming political and cultural institutions and practices established during the period of empire. Post-empire change has encouraged a more plural but fragmented and uncertain understanding of British national identity which has led policy-makers to re-examine governance and citizenship to ‘ensure that Britain remains a cohesive society, confident in its shared identity’ (HMSO 2007: 40). Central to such deliberations are questions about what ways newer citizens who have migrated from the former imperial periphery and elsewhere have reshaped understanding of citizenship and Britishness, and how they can be integrated into British political and cultural life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMulticulturalism and Moral Conflict
EditorsMaria Dimova-Cookson, Peter Stirk
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Pages170-191
Number of pages22
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9780203869444
ISBN (Print)9780415466158, 9780415503525
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2009

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