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Idea of English Ethnicityby Robert Young
Synopses & Reviews
In recent years, particularly since devolution in the UK, there have been many attempts to identify what exactly Englishness really involves. In this major contribution to debates about English identity, leading cultural theorist Robert J. C. Young argues that the recent uncertainty about the nature of the English arises from more than just the challenges of devolution, or even the end of empire. It is rather the long-term result of the fact that in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Englishness was never really about England, the place, its essence, or its national character, at all. It was rather developed as a form of ethnic identity for those who were precisely not English, but rather made up the English diaspora around the world, Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans.
Englishness was constructed as a translatable quality or identity that could be taken on or appropriated by anyone anywhere – which is why the most English Englishmen have rarely been English. This construction was so powerful that even today the English diaspora continues to act together at a political level around the globe. In England itself, this meant that being English was characterized through an open structure of inclusion rather than exclusion, which helps to explain why the country has been able to transform itself into one of the most successful of modern multicultural nations.
Book News Annotation:
In recent years the UK has earnestly debated what constitutes Englishness, and given the effects of devolution and immigration, that argument has become ever more intense. Young (English and comparative literature, New York U.) makes the point that the debate did not arise solely from the socio-political situation that came at the end of empire, but as a form of ethnic identity for people who were not English (Americans, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and South Africans) but claimed that affiliation. He describes elements of the debate over what constitutes Englishness and closely examines its moral and philosophical anatomy, analyzes Matthew Arnold's critique, and thoroughly reminds us that it is the English global diaspora that largely determines Englishness, a situation that has led to an open structure of inclusion and multiculturalism in England itself. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In this major contribution to debates about English identity, leading theorist Robert J.C. Young argues that Englishness was never really about England at all. In the nineteenth century, it was rather developed as a form of long-distance identity for the English diaspora around the world. Young shows how the effects of this continue to reverberate today, nationally and globally.
About the Author
Robert J. C. Young is Julius Silver Professor of English and Comparative Literature at New York University. His previous publications include White Mythologies (1990), Colonial Desire (1995), and Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (2001).
Table of Contents
2. ‘New Theory of Race: Saxon v. Celt’.
3. Moral and Philosophical Anatomy.
4. The Times vs. the Celts.
5. Matthew Arnold’s Critique of ‘Englishism’.
6. ‘A Vaster England’: The Anglo-Saxon.
7. ‘England Round the World’.
8. Englishness: England and Nowhere.
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» History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology