Clarkson, Aiden (2016) Reading the repatriation events at Wootton Bassett: national identity, ideology, absence and the uncanny / Manchester. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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This thesis presents a 'reading' of the Wootton Bassett phenomenon: public mourning accompanying the repatriations of the bodies of members of the British armed forces between 2007–2011. Wootton Bassett, much discussed in the local and national press, was the focal point of conversations about the national mood, and national identity. The thesis explores national identity and the structure of the state, and the Wootton Bassett phenomenon in particular, in order that the two issues might illuminate each other.

This thesis is a work of creative nonfiction, which blends various approaches to the reading of historical and contemporary cultural narratives. My aim is to deliver a piece of analysis which is academically rigorous whilst reflecting my position as a creative writer within academia. Working from Althusser's theories of ideology, the methodology is a synthesis of Cultural Studies, close reading of media reports, and memoir. I begin with discussion of 'Ideology' per Althusser, and his proposition that Ideology is an ongoing event, and the state's accepted 'ideologies' are gathered centripetally around a fundamental absence of congruence and coherence. Utilising Althusser's descriptions of interpellation, ideological state apparatuses (ISAs) and the repressive state apparatus (RSA), the thesis moves on to analyse British narratives of national identity: long-term narratives (the symbolic development of the mythical figures Gog and Magog), and then our current context, in particular the ideological redefinitions of the Second World War. Discussion of public mourning for Princess Diana offers an exemplar for discussions of Wootton Bassett in terms of tradition and ideologically-mediated concepts of appropriateness.

The concluding sections of the thesis are an Althusserian analysis of the discourse surrounding extremist group Islam4UK’s proposed counter-march at Wootton Bassett. The silence of the repatriation events' attendees is positioned as an uncanny indeterminacy, in which subjects refuse to enact interpellation. Finally, a memoir section describes my trip to the town for the 2014 armistice day memorial ceremony. Through these various approaches, the thesis explores the partial and mutable nature of ideology and national identity, and the scope within these structures for the subject to act with agency and dignity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2017 10:47
Last Modified: 29 Jul 2022 15:29

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