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Study Notes

Near and Far Places

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

National identity is, in some senses, a fiction since any one country is the product of a multitude of different groups of people, ideas and experiences.

Most societies, however, are characterised by feelings of ‘us’ and ‘them’ based on shared experiences and values. These feelings are sometimes carefully cultivated for political or commercial purposes and can be both positive and negative.

The stirring of national pride to support the Welsh football team during the Euro 2016 football tournament (where the team reached the semi-finals for the first time in 53 years) was a positive response to feelings of ‘us’ and ‘them’. The feelings were amplified by the media and had the effect of reviving and reinforcing a sense of national identity. This national pride emerged out of a sense of belonging (to the successful group) and was formed in response to favourable comparisons to the ‘other’.

Sometimes, however, responses to the ‘other’ do not result in positive feelings. Xenophobia and racism are extreme reactions to ‘other places’ and peoples and go some way to explain football hooliganism, racially motivated hate crimes and terrorist acts.

Of course, less harmful behaviour is known to emerge out of feelings of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and one explanation for the outcome of the EU referendum in 2016 is that Britain saw Europe as ‘the other’ – i.e. external and contrary to the sense of British identity.

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