The Island Race: geopolitics and identity in British foreign policy discourse since 1949

Whittaker, Nicholas James (2016) The Island Race: geopolitics and identity in British foreign policy discourse since 1949. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis examines Britain’s foreign policy identity by analysing the use of geopolitical tropes in discursive practices of ontological security-seeking in the British House of Commons since 1949, a period of great change for Britain as it lost its empire and joined NATO and the EC. The Empire was narrated according to a series of geopolitical tropes that I call Island Race identity: insularity from Europe and a universal aspect on world affairs, maintenance of Lines of Communication, antipathy towards Land Powers and the Greater Britain metacommunity. The aim of this thesis is to genealogically historicise and contextualise these tropes through interpretivist analysis of Commons debates concerning a series of events and issues from the establishment of NATO to the current parliament. By conceptualising parliamentary discourse as a social practice involving the fixing of ontologically secure subject positions, it presents a new reading of modern British foreign policy that addresses the traditional neglect of geopolitics and identity in approaches depicting a materially declining state engaging in the pragmatic pursuit of realist national interests.
The analysis shows how Britain’s foreign policy identity continues to be reliant on the geopolitical constitutions of islandness that discursively defined the empire. This is not indicative of imperial nostalgia so much as it is evidence of how discursive practices of ontological security-seeking in a political environment with a shared debating culture tend to mobilise established identity tropes that have retained relevance even without their imperial underpinnings. Narrations of the Cold War and NATO, relations with the rest of Europe and globalisation are shown to be reliant on Island Race tropes that, through contextual interactions, fix Britain in subject positions of relevance according to how British values, forged by insular geography, are of universal relevance to a world in which Britain is in a pivotal geopolitical position.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations > JZ1305 Scope of international relations. Political theory. Diplomacy
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2016 10:15
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2016 10:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/62069

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