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'We need to Wrap ourselves in the Flag of St. George': UKIP and the Politics of Englishness in precarious Doncaster

Globalisation
Migration
National Identity
Nationalism
Populism
Political Sociology
Euroscepticism
Cathrine Thorleifsson
Universitetet i Oslo
Cathrine Thorleifsson
Universitetet i Oslo

Abstract

This paper explores the rise and popular appeal of United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the postindustrial, white-majority, working-class town of Doncaster. In 2015 and 2016 UKIP obtained an electoral breakthrough and referendum victory in traditional Labour land on a strong anti-immigration and Eurosceptic platform. Based on ethnographic fieldwork amongst UKIP supporters and politicians this paper argues that it was the party’s invocation of culture and economy in tandem that gave the populist radical right its local appeal, as it translated concrete experiences of insecurity into fears and fantasies of cultural-religious difference. Long term precarization of labour and livelihoods coupled with accelerated migration nurtured the conditions conducive to a particular mechanism of neo-nationalism I term peripheral nationhood. Peripheral nationhood entails the process through which people who feel marginalized by European and global integration, invoke discourses and practices of neo-nationalism in the search for existential security, future and identity. UKIP tapped into local grievances and industrial nostalgia, moving symbolically the “forgotten and neglected” from the socio-economic margins to the cultural forefront of the nation in the image of its patriotic defender. Social imaginaries of ‘crimmigrant’ Others served to reinforce the boundaries of Britishness/Englishness and UKIP as the righteous protector of national welfare, security and Judeo-Christian civilization as a whole.