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Social Construction of Britishness

1691 words (7 pages) Essay in Cultural Studies

18/05/20 Cultural Studies Reference this

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Social construction of “Britishness”

Nowadays it is universally acknowledged that describing a country, a region or even a city is much more challenging than simply explaining a group of inhabitants that live together in the same location. What is more, this laborious task becomes even more exhausting and complicated if the intention is to describe the social construction of a country with a millennial history full of controversial and revolutionary changes as it is the case of the United Kingdom. Beginning with its nearly disappearance from the world with the Norman conquest in 1066, continuing with the establishment of the biggest empire in the human being history from 16th century to 20th century and finishing with its current status as the 5º most powerful country in the world.

In addition to this, the meaning of “Britishness” has been influenced and altered by the perception of native and foreign people all over the time. Moreover, economic, social, cultural and religious convictions have been key factors that have transformed the social construction since the beginning of the human being until its possible future decline and fall.

Consequently, the aim with this essay is to describe and explain the social construction of “Britishness” from foreign countries and cultures.

  1. Foreign vision of “Britishness”

In this section, it will be discussed certain aspects from the point of view of different countries, ones from Europe and others from other continents, so as to provide a proper and accurate image of abroad people.

1.1.           Education

According to a survey performed to EU students studying in the United Kingdom in a higher education institution, the crucial reasons why they have determined their choice were the quality and prestige of British education. Firstly, the most relevant motifs for selecting to study in the UK were “Discover the exact course they deserved to study” (28%), “Obtaining a better job prospects” (24%) and “The quality of UK institutions” (18%). In a further survey, the EU students stated that the improvement of their level of English and the English proficiency for job prospects were key convincing facts for performing their studies in the United Kingdom with a 98% and 82% respectively. Finally, in the last poll effected where data of opinions were compared prior and after the course, it may be established a clear tendency towards seeking a job in the UK or continuing for further courses abroad. (West, 2000, p. 23)[1]

In summary, it could be clearly affirmed that the universities and high education courses in the United Kingdom possess a high quality and prestige as the figures has demonstrated. As a result, many foreign people decide to become part of the UK educational system and eventually, forming part of its society and its work market. Notwithstanding, there is a significant fact which might be the justification for its reputation and relevance, the utilization of English. English is the 3rd language most spoken all over the world and, consequently, it is used in the many fields such as the economic, scientific or educational. Therefore, the vast majority of researches are made in English and experts tend to express their ideas in this language with the objective of being widespread and well-known.

1.2.           General stereotypes and comparison with other anglophones countries

According to a questionnaire to Danish people regarding their view of different English-speaking countries, the American culture is preferred above all in despite of the richness British literature and history. In the first part, the Danish showed a clear favouritism for the United States nation with a 38% by the surveyed whereas the British nation was only chosen with an 18%. Individually speaking, opinions collide. For instance, in the positive ones, the subject number 56 declared that both countries were able to offer a lot, but he leaned towards Britain due to its history and language. On the other hand, in the negatives, the subject 59 claimed that the American culture was more dynamic and exciting because of the often boredom and dryness of the British one. (Ladegaard, 1998, pp. 262-263)[2]

To sum up, it is possible to reach to the conclusion that the vision towards British and American differs according to the importance given to tradition. If it is valued the origin and the historical and literary tradition, it may be presumably assumed the magnificence of the British culture. Nonetheless, if the charismatic dynamism is admired, American culture might be considered superior. This type of mentality could be connected with the idea of the longing for the past and its consideration as better.

1.3.           Brexit and its impact on people’s opinion

According to a poll made by the British Council to foreign people, Brexit has provided a more negative perception to UK’s people. For instance, when they were demanded to value if people from the United Kingdom were tolerant and cosy regarding the diversity of ethnises and religions, pursuant to the pre-Brexit survey the statistic fell by a 2%. Additionally, negative characteristics such as too patriotic and nationalistic (27%) and ignorant of other countries (25%) also rose remarkably. What is more, the UK government appreciation also declined after the referendum. For example, the perception of its contribution to the progression of developing countries decreased by a 3% to a 42%. However, it could be found a great variation in the opinion depending on the countries or regions e.g. people from European countries such as Germany, France or Italy were more pessimistic about the hereafter engagement with the United Kingdom especially in education and business affairs. Otherwise, countries from the Commonwealth like India, Australia or Canada and nations from the Group of Twenty (G20) declared that the separation of the UK was a favourable factor for the augmentation of the appeal of the United Kingdom. (Cameron, 2017)[3]

Conclusively, it could be stated that Brexit has modified the viewpoint of the British and their mentality; nevertheless, it cannot be considered as a sweeping change. As regard the difference of attitudes between European and Non-European countries, the cause might be the possibility of economic gains thanks to the probable worsening or, at least, lower frequency of relationships with its previous partnership.

  1. Interesting facts about “Britishness”

This section will be devoted to an intriguing data of British literature and cinema. There will be presented and compared 2 illustrative and opposite examples of key figures of “Britishness”: the detective Sherlock Holmes and the secret agent James Bond, agent 007.

2.1.           Sherlock Holmes, the timeless detective

2.2.        James Bond, the “rebirth” of the character 

In 1953, the English novelist and journalist Ian Fleming created a fictional character known as James Bond, secret agent who worked for the Secret Intelligence Service of the British government. Owning to the great success, many renowned actors like Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan have interpreted this role.

Nonetheless, personally speaking, not even his creator would have expected the recent transformation this personage has suffered with the arrival of Daniel Craig. First of all, his appearance was remodelled by giving him blonde hair and blue eyes and a much more body corpulence. Although this action was criticised by some fans and the world’s press, for instance, the BBC, this mutation was not in reality the real turning point for this character. In contrast, the construction of identity was radically shifted transferring him an image of a not-completed, defenceless and evolving character. A perfect example to illustrate this would be that his masculinity is always threatened and flowing, provoking that his identity of his gender becomes unstable. (Cox, 2014, pp. 184-185)[4]

To summarise, this new tendency has entirely modified James Bond if it is compared to its English origin with Ian Fleming. This “rebirth” of the character might have been caused by the influence of the hollywoodense cinema and the reforming trend of revision of the figures considered as “sexist”.

References

  • Cameron, E., 2017. British Council. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/how-do-young-people-other-countries-see-uk
    [Accessed 20 10 2019].
  • Cox, K., 2014. Becoming James Bond: Daniel Craig, rebirth, and refashioning masculinity in Casino Royale (2006) Journal of Gender Studies, pp. 184-196.
  • Ladegaard, H., 1998. National stereotypes and language attitudes: The perception of British, American and Australian language and culture in Denmark. In: Language & Communication, 18. s.l.:s.n., pp. 251-274.
  • West, A., 2000. Reasons for studying abroad: A survey of EU students studying in the UK. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research , Volume 20, p. 23.

 


[1] West, A., 2000. Reasons for studying abroad: A survey of EU students studying in the UK. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research , Volume 20, p. 23.

[2] Ladegaard, H., 1998. National stereotypes and language attitudes: The perception of British, American and Australian language and culture in Denmark. In: Language & Communication, 18. s.l.:s.n., pp. 251-274.

[3] Cameron, E., 2017. British Council. [Online]
Available at: https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/how-do-young-people-other-countries-see-uk
[Accessed 20/10/2019]

[4] Cox, K., 2014. Becoming James Bond: Daniel Craig, rebirth, and refashioning masculinity in Casino Royale (2006) Journal of Gender Studies, pp. 184-196.

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