We were asked to take images of national identity in London and choose a few keywords to describe it. Some people to look at it in a commercial way and chose less obvious examples and others were more personal. As a group, common ways of detecting national identity were language, iconography (flags, illustrations, symbols), colours and materials also less obvious in images, sounds and smells.
Keywords discussed were culture, signifier, community, history, stereotype and connection.
I chose to take these images, there were many more opportunities for other images but these stood out the most and were more visually identifiable. Key moments were: on the tube, where seating is printed with a pattern an abstract London with well-known London attractions drawn in geometric shapes. Travelling frequently on this mode of transport, for many, may be lost in a fast-paced lifestyle but when appreciating the connection of the underground and London, they identify very much with each other. Another example was the royal mail van. The colours and symbols used are patriotic, red and blue from the union jack, and the crown on the logo and queen on the stamps, an icon of the British to people in and out of the UK. The monarchy is heavily promoted as a symbolism of ‘Britishness’, as a place that has an ‘overarching figure’ (Orbach, 2009) that is encouraged for the nostalgia of the past, in which it is firmly rooted from when being born. In school, history lessons from the beginning revolve around the British past; kings and queens, how others served and other common culture now associated with Britishness.
A collective memory plays a big part in national identity, preserving and transferring society’s cultural capital and keeping its existence. Sharing similar forms of cultural capital with others creates a sense of collective identity and group position (“people like us”). National memory is affected by every individual’s memory, the more people are in agreement, the stronger the group cohesion and new ideas opposed can trigger added insights to the memory.
Michael Billig (1995) expands this idea when he talks about ‘banal nationalism’. He draws attention to the ways in which the nation is a social construction. Nationalism was not only a quality of ‘gun-toting, flag-waving extremists’ (Wade, 2014) but was invisibly and quietly replicated by all of us in our daily lives. We belong to a nation and it belongs to us, almost like a membership to a club. With celebrations, parades, or patriotic war it occurs but also but in everyday, unnoticed ways.
Referring back to my earlier example, stamps and money also is a very good example. it represents a country on one item as it travels around the globe. With flags, significant faces and places it becomes easily identifiable that it is the countries’ own. The British flag is seen on any road, hanging in gardens, on balconies and in houses and shop windows. The news frequently breaks a home country into them versus everyone else causing “othering”.