Britain in Europe/The British in Spain. Exploring Britain’s changing relationship to the other

O'Reilly, Karen. 2002. Britain in Europe/The British in Spain. Exploring Britain’s changing relationship to the other. Nations and Nationalism, 8(2), pp. 179-193. ISSN 1354-5078 [Article]

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This paper will explore Britain’s changing relationship towards the outside in the context of contemporary British migration to the Costa del Sol. Historically, the British abroad have (apparently) retained a myth of the glorious homeland, to which they will eventually return, but the critique of colonialism both challenged the ethnocentrism of the colonisers and questioned the validity of the descriptions of colonial life. More recently, Britain has been forced to shed some of its ‘great nation’/ uncontaminated island mentality and to attempt to embrace both Europe and the rest of the developed world. At the same time the ‘race relations’ approach has been exchanged for a multiculturalist one at home. But the relationship with the outside remains ambivalent: Europe is embraced one day and spurned the next; racism remains a problem in Britain; and the British abroad seem to retain a ‘little England’ mentality. The British who have migrated to Spain in the last few decades are especially interesting. Their compatriots back home denigrate their behaviour and impute to them a longing for home which they do not have. They, themselves, fail to integrate into Spanish society yet talk of Spain as their home and construct new identities based on symbols of Spanishness. Dangling between two countries and two cultures, the British in Spain are, in many ways, symbolic of Britain’s ambivalence to the outside and to its self.

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April 2002Published

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05 Dec 2017 12:24

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05 Dec 2017 12:24

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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