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Routing 'Identity' in Britain

posted on 2023-06-08, 10:26 authored by Alice Correia
‘Identity’ offers a way of understanding our subjective experiences in relation to the social, political and historical contexts in which we live. Our identity is who we are and informs our position in the world. Over the past 30 years or so, the concept of identity has been central to the disciplines of cultural and postcolonial studies and the conflicts contained within the politics of identity have been hotly debated within contemporary art. Although identity takes many forms — personal, familial and social to name but a few — many of the concerns surrounding identity have revolved around questions of belonging to the nation state. In his book There Ain’t no Black in the Union Jack, first published in 1987, Paul Gilroy made a scathing attack on the exclusion of black people from British national identity. He outlined the cultural and political rhetoric of the 1970s and 80s which actively sought to maintain divisions between black and white communities through a racist system of stereotype and discrimination. Gilroy demonstrated how living in the diaspora — of having migratory roots — marked black people as different from the national self-image whereby ‘their’ presence in Britain could be “constructed as a problem or threat against which a homogenous, white, national ‘we’ could be unified.” Gilroy forcibly described how the representation of black people in official culture was steeped in negative stereotypes, often linked with criminality.


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  • Published


Institute of International Visual Arts

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Book title

Entanglement: the Ambivalence of Identity

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  • Art History Publications

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Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Tessa Jackson

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