Accepted paper:

Multiculturalism and national identity in an emerging polity

Author:

Charlotte Davies (Swansea University)

Paper short abstract:

A critical examination of the impact of the powerful public discourse around multiculturalism on the process of nation-building in an emerging polity. Based on research on the use of education policy to promote Welsh national identity since the establishment of devolved governance in 1999.

Paper long abstract:

This paper provides a critical examination of the impact of the powerful public discourse around the concept of multiculturalism on the process of nation-building in an emerging polity. Political, and other elites who attempt to nurture a national identity, while still acknowledging the expectations generated within this discursive milieu, are forced to address concerns about the nature of culturally defined boundaries. In the process, they generate their own understandings about what constitutes a 'national culture', how 'national culture' can be reconciled with a commitment to 'multiculturalism', and how citizenship is defined in a democracy attempting to respect both concepts. The empirical research on which the paper is based looks specifically at attempts to promote a national cultural identity and a sense of national citizenship in Wales by means of education policy, in the context of the devolution of a degree of political autonomy through the establishment, in 1999, of the National Assembly for Wales. This new political institution, while not representing an autonomous 'nation-state', can nevertheless be viewed as the core institution of an emerging polity, and as such, it provides a contemporary example of the application of concepts such as 'culture' and 'identity' to the process of nation-building. The salience of these concepts is particularly high due to the fact that Wales remains part of a pre-existing national identity (British) with its own national culture (English) with which an emerging Welsh national identity must compete. Furthermore any such new national project of necessity takes place within the context of other discourses about multiculturalism and the effects of globalising processes on the meaning of national identity and citizenship. The data from this study thus provide examples of the uses of the concepts of 'culture', 'identity' and 'multiculturalism' in a particular public arena, and the paper builds on these examples to develop a broader theoretical analysis of the significance of these concepts in contemporary politics.

panel W014
Anthropology and the politics of multiculturalism (a friendly merger of W014 & W030)