The “unforeign” in post-war British national identity

Thursday, 19 September 2013 (All day) - Friday, 20 September 2013 (All day)
Millburn House, University of Warwick

  Zaki Nahaboo  presents his paper at the 'Formations and Representations of British National Identity', University of Warwick. 

What remains absent from post World War Two narratives that deal with the shift from the imperial to the post-imperial is the use of the ‘unforeign’ as a means of reconceptualising British national identity. This paper investigates how the category of the ‘unforeign’ emerged as an implicit symptom, and at times an explicit term, to make sense of two moments and subjects of arrival: the other who arrives into a modern state system as a group of nations (the piecemeal shift from British Empire to Commonwealth of Nations) and the other who arrives to Britain’s shores as a group of people between white British citizen and foreigner (the shift from non-white imperial subject to the non-white British citizen). 
I begin by tracing how the ‘unforeign’ was cultivated through interwar Round Table anxieties about a possible non-white Commonwealth of Nations. I then illustrate the role of the ‘unforeign’ in Jawaharlal Nehru ‘multi-racial’ Commonwealth. I argue that the imperial and postcolonial discourse of the ‘unforeign’ was transposed to the national setting for refiguring post-war British identity (1948-1962) as a condition of being legally incorporated as British, yet premised upon the continual othering of non-whites within Britain. In addition, I discuss how the ‘unforeign’ enabled the international dimensions of racism (perpetuated through Britain’s post-war colonial policy) to be insulated from ‘multi-racial’ Commonwealth critique. Racism was instead resituated by post-war liberals as a national problem which faced the newly constituted ‘minorities’. 
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Oecumene: Citizenship after Orientalism is funded by an European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (Institutions, values, beliefs and behaviour ERC-AG-SH2).

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