June 14th 2007 - UK
The question of what makes up British identity has always been a fuzzy one. In recent years the issue of national identity has moved up a notch in the political agenda not least in part due to 9/11, the devolution in Scotland and Wales, European integration, Britain's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a rise in immigration focussing attention on multiculturalism, diversity and its relationship with a national identity.
Ipsos MORI's research for The Camelot Foundation canvassed the views of 16 to 21 year olds across the UK. Using a mixture of qualitative group discussions, quantitative data and semiotic analysis we explore their views of Britishness and its place in their lives. Issues such as social cohesion, multiculturalism, nationalism, and young people's future and life chances are central to the findings.
The semiotic analysis allows us to interrogate how British identity is constructed and how it operates in the context of youth culture. We investigate a range of themes including the parent-child discourse associated with a hierarchical old world, 'stiff upper lip' version of Britain; the extreme meritocracy in contemporary society (perpetuated by television shows like the X-factor that propel everyday people into celebrity status); and ways to harness the rise of virtual communities and creative spaces created for and by young people.
We offer some conclusions as to how these ideas can be taken forward to meet young people half way — to paraphrase an old saying, we must ask not what young people can do for Britishness, but what Britishness can do for young people.