England – whose England? Narratives of nostalgia, emptiness and evasion in imaginations of national identity



This paper explores the contested and racialised nature of Englishness as a national identity. Based on qualitative interviews of white mothers in London, the paper examines the different ways in which the interviewees positioned themselves in relation to concepts of Englishness. National identity involves ways of being, a sense of place and belonging. It is produced through forms of myth-making and narrative production which depend on particular constructions of time and space. This paper examines how nation-ness is imagined and lived by the interviewees. It asks how constructions of Englishness related to constructions of the self and how imaginings of belonging involved imagining of otherness. It also describes how, for some of the interviewees, the domestic, particularly in notions of cleanliness and dirt, as well as food and consumption, was a key metaphor for explaining their relationship to national identity.