Eighty Years of “The Lion and the Unicorn”: Society and Identity in Great Britain since World War II

Eighty Years of “The Lion and the Unicorn”: Society and Identity in Great Britain since World War II

Dr. Nikolai Wehrs, Universität Konstanz; Dr. Almuth Ebke, Universität Mannheim; Dr. Daniel Larsen, University of Cambridge
Vom - Bis
11.06.2021 - 12.06.2021
Almuth Ebke, Neuere und Neueste Geschichte, Universität Mannheim

Taking the 80th anniversary of the first publication of George Orwell’s “The Lion and the Unicorn” as a starting point, this workshop will examine discourses of identity and belonging in the United Kingdom since the Second World War.

Eighty Years of “The Lion and the Unicorn”: Society and Identity in Great Britain since World War II

In his famous essay “The Lion and the Unicorn”, Orwell outlined the vision of a reconciliation of democracy, socialism and patriotism. Writing at the height of the Second World War, Orwell prefigured a range of topics which came to represent powerful fault lines in many disputes about social and national identifications in the United Kingdom since 1945: nation versus class, “global Britain” versus “little England”, decolonisation versus multiculturalism, “mass democracy” versus “the Establishment”, among others. By taking these fault lines as entry points, the workshop is interested in the question as to why and in which way “identity” became such an important topic in British academic and public debate since the Second World War.

By focusing on discourses of identity formation, the workshop aims to shift the historiographical perspective away from attempts to explicitly define identity and toward the mechanisms that led to periods of public and political introspection of this subject. On a methodological and theoretical level, this perspective allows to draw conclusions about competing concepts of “identity” itself – a technical term that so far has rarely been understood as a category with its own intellectual history. In order to differentiate the actual analytical utility of popular concepts of belonging such as “Britishness”, “Englishness”, “Scottishness” from their wider political and cultural significance, their intellectual presuppositions must be critically examined.

We welcome papers that engage with, but are not limited to the following research areas:
(1) the impact of Orwell on identity debates in the UK
as well as wider questions of
(2) the relationship between national identity and notions of class,
(3) the connection between insular introspection and the global (imperial) outlook,
(4) the effects of decolonization and multiculturalism,
(5) the challenges participatory democracy has posed to the traditional political order and
(6) the intellectual history of identity debates in British history since the Second World War.

While the overarching question of the workshop is historically focused, the convenors welcome various approaches and encourage submissions that cross disciplines. We seek to gather an international group of scholars who will discuss a broad spectrum of aspects related to the history of identity debates in the United Kingdom. Graduate students are encouraged to apply.

Scholars interested in presenting at the workshop are asked to send proposals of no more than 500 words with a short biography by 15 January 2021 to aebke@mail.uni-mannheim.de. Completed papers will need to be submitted in advance of the conference, by 31 May. Each presentation should last no more than 15 minutes. The organizers have secured funding for a limited number of travel grants for presenters; please indicate if you would like to be considered for support. If the current pandemic situation does not allow a meeting in person, we will switch to an online or hybrid format.


Dr. Nikolai Wehrs, nikolai.wehrs@uni-konstanz.de
Dr. Almuth Ebke, aebke@mail.uni-mannheim.de

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