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Keywords:

  • national identity;
  • ethnic identity;
  • ethnic minorities;
  • Britishness;
  • cultural practices

Abstract

This study explored what it means to be British from the perspective of young British Indian and Pakistani adults. Fifteen respondents were interviewed using a semi-structured schedule in order to explore their self-descriptions and self-categorizations, how different contexts influence their identifications as British and as Indian/Pakistani, their sense of patriotism, and their perceptions of racism, discrimination and multiculturalism. Grounded theory methodology was used to analyse the interviews. The respondents' identifications and the role of context, threat and racism were studied in detail, and a model of how these individuals defined the boundaries of Britishness, and how they positioned themselves in relationship to these boundaries, was derived from the data. Six boundaries of Britishness were identified, these being the racial, civic/state, instrumental, historical, lifestyle and multicultural boundaries. Participants used these boundaries flexibly, drawing on different boundaries depending on the particular context in which Britishness was discussed. The implications of these multiple boundaries for the conceptualization of national identification are discussed. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.