Contestations over National Identity and Diversity: An analysis of French and British media debates in the autumn 2014

How and when is national identity and nationhood debated, and what does this reveal about the boundaries of national identity? Drawing on analyses of opinion pieces from French and British newspapers, we examine how national identity is debated, contested and challenged in light of national and international news events during the autumn of 2014. This blog post is based on a Policy Brief from the research project ‘Negotiating the nation: Implications of ethnic and religious diversity for national identity’ (NATION).

PHOTO: Creative Commons/Jon S on Flickr

  • National identity is an embedded theme in public debates, spurred by events and societal change, but also often abstract and removed from everyday life.
  • Three areas of debate with conflicts over the boundaries of national identity emerge: Immigration and ethnic diversity; terrorism and religious diversity; state independence and union.
  • In discussions on immigration and ethnic diversity, opinions are often justified through expressions of and references to ‘national’ values.
  • Religious diversity is contested in relation to ‘Muslim’ terrorism and radicalisation, but also to notions of ‘Christian’ values in the secular state.

Mediations of national identity

Recent acts of terrorism have fuelled longstanding French and British debates on nationhood: who is French or British, and who is not. Events that induce fear, such as terrorism, crises and other disruptive events, often provoke public debate, change public opinion and alter traditional categories. In this Policy Brief we examine when questions about national identity appear in public debates and how national identity is contested. By analysing French and British media debates from the autumn of 2014, this study provides a snapshot of ongoing debates on national identity in France and the United Kingdom.

Read more in a recent PRIO Policy Brief ‘Contestations over National Identity and Diversity’.

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One Comment


It’s interesting to see the differences and similarities in ideas of national identity between countries. Thanks for sharing this interesting brief!

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