Thomas, Paul (2013) The Silent Majority? White People, Multiculturalism and the challenge of ‘Englishness’. In: British Sociological Association Annual Conference, 3-5 April 2013, London. (Unpublished)

The relationship between British policy approaches to multiculturalism and ‘White’ identity has been a complex and under-discussed one. Too often, ‘White’ identity in Britain has been portrayed as a homogenous norm needing no theorisation or exploration, yet at the same time media and political discourses around the racialised fears and concerns of White people, especially the ‘White working class’, have been influential on shifts in the content and priorities of state approaches to ‘race relations’. This can be seen most clearly in the post-2001 shift towards cohesion and integration, a re-naming and re-balancing of multiculturalism to reflect White concerns, yet post-2001 policy enactment around cohesion/integration and ‘Prevent’ continues to ignore engagement with the identifications and concerns of many White communities. This paper explores this relationship between ‘White’ identity and British multiculturalism, arguing that the inexorable growth of ‘Englishness’, possibly to be hastened by a Scottish Independence vote in 2014, makes it all the more urgent that multiculturalist policy and practice engages directly with White English identifications and perceptions.

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