Nationality – Culture and Identity

Lesson objectiveTo explore nationality in relation to culture and identity.
Lesson outcomes• Compare nationality to gender, sexuality, social class, disability and age.
• Assess to what extent nationality is still relevant today.
• Explain the characteristics of different nationalities in relation to culture and identity.


If you belong to a country or a state – you have a nationality. A nationality involves the rights, responsibility, and culture of a nation. This depends on numerous factors e.g. birth, marriage, citizenship etc.

A national identity is to what extent a person tries to adopt the norms and values of the country or state e.g. adopting a country’s traditions. Hall (1992) claims that every country has its own story and journey. The result is a unique history and identity e.g. flag and food. Palmer (1999) claims that heritage exists in a country not for the people, but advertising. Symbols attract tourism and the byproduct is that citizens adopt the heritage.

Agents of socialisation

The family – individuals learn a common language and initial norms and values. These tend to have been passed down from generation to generation.

Education – Schools teach a national identity as part of their curriculum e.g. British values and citizenship. It is also part of the actual curriculum e.g. British history – ethnocentric.

Media – The media can act as a tool to bring together news. In the UK media companies will focus on national news rather than foreign. The news will also have a specific format (what is the difference between how news is broadcast in the UK and Australia).

A British Identity

In the 2011 census, 58% of people in England described themselves as English and not British. This is steadily increasing.

In 2014, the British Social Attitudes Survey found the 75% of people saw speaking English, having British citizenship, respecting laws and being very or fairly British.


National identities are becoming diluted and instead, global identities are becoming the norm. Postmodernists attribute this to Globalisation which has created more hybrid and multi nationalities. Orr (2011) states that negative identities have been formed. In essence, people construct their identity by identifying what they are not rather than what they are e.g. If I am not British, Scottish, Welsh or Irish then I must be English.

A crisis of identity.

  • 66% of adults in Wales claim their national identity as wholly or part Welsh.
  • 62% of people in Scotland claimed their identity as being ‘Scottish’ with only 18% of people being ‘Scottish British’ and 8% just ‘British’ (2011 census).
  • 48% of the population of England and Wales chose ‘British’ as their identity.

The weakening of national identities


Postmodernists argue that there is a blurring of identities and national cultures are becoming weaker.

Global popular culture, multinational corporations, widespread migration etc. All this immigration has resulted in an increase in ethnic minorities.

Hall suggests that there is an increase in hybrid and multi nationalities replacing national.


National identities in some instances can be strengthened to oppose globalisation e.g. British National Party.

Some ethnic minorities may try to be British to integrate.

In sporting events, national identity can be increased e.g. World Cup Football which brings people together e.g. South Africa World Cup.

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