Nationalism and Identity: The Arab-British Complex

Sajidah Ali


This dissertation sets out to explore the ways in which nationalism as an ideology has played a part in the formation of identity in modern international relations; formations which go beyond the shaping of the nation state as we know it. It aims to place the exploration in a context which reflects the contextual origins of nationalism itself: Britain. This dissertation explains the role of nationalism in the formation of identity of the Middle Eastern Diaspora residing in Britain. This is the subject diaspora of choice considering the aforementioned role of Britain in cultivating nationalist sentiment, especially in the Arab world. Although naturally adopting a multidisciplinary approach, to transcend an empirical sociological observation it will compare the proclamations of identity by the subject diaspora with already existing definitions and constructions of British national identity. The foundational basis of this dissertation will be frameworks of nationalism as defined by Anderson (1991), Alter (1994), and Gellner (1983). The research involves the method of primary research to ensure an active intonation of political implications, as well as implications for existing grounded theories concerning nationalism and identity.

The results of the primary research reveal that Arab national sentiment is not as concretely present in the participants as per the initial anticipation. The relationship is geared towards patriotism and a strong attachment to religion, as opposed to an all encompassing nationalist sentiment. The start of this project was based on believing that nationalism was the strongest factor in the shaping of the young Middle Eastern diaspora in Britain, and this said nationalist sentiment would supersede any cultural or religious self identification. As a result, the suspected implications of this for British national identity are reflective of a deep and substantial disparity. However, the results display a remarkable shift away from a simple Arab Communitarian force or an all-encompassing global Cosmopolitan force. This opening of the debate highlights the nature of national identity as a social construct, designed by individualism which allows no real space for community, and instead advocates the growth of religion as a more powerful factor concerning identity.

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