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Nationalism and Attitudes to Immigration

Sandelind, Clara (2015) Nationalism and Attitudes to Immigration. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

National identity is believed to create a sense of trust and solidarity amongst co-nationals that is necessary to underpin the democratic welfare state. Immigration, in turn, is viewed as a potential threat to the stability of such a shared national identity. Yet concerns about immigration in public opinion are to a large extent dependent on how people understand the meaning of their national identity. Therefore, this thesis argues that different kinds of shared identities may construct images of immigration that are seen as less of a threat. The key argument this thesis pursues is that attitudes to immigration are affected by constructed understandings of identity, belonging and exclusion. To this end, a focused, qualitative, comparative study of Sweden and Britain has been conducted. 47 in-depth interviews were conducted with respondents from the two countries, concerning questions of identity, democracy, welfare and immigration. The main findings are threefold. First, three different understandings of a shared identity are found, for which belonging is based either on an idea of a common nation, on making contributions to the community or on a commitment to social and political institutions. Second, these identities are differently related to attitudes to immigration. Those for whom belonging is based on a common nation are the most negative to immigration. Those for whom the boundaries of belonging depend on institutions are the most positive, followed by those who base belonging on contributions. Third, national identity seems to be constructed by interpretations, as well as the institutional and political context, of the democratic welfare state. Thus, the welfare state is argued to be an important, yet overlooked, factor that influences the formation of symbolic boundaries of political communities. In short, ideas of institutions and contributions were found to have strong inclusionary potential, in contrast to when belonging is primarily based on renderings of a common nation. This thesis therefore argues that a form of “institutional patriotism”, for which belonging is based on the experience of, and commitment to, fair and effective social and political institutions, can generate trust and solidarity whilst being more welcoming to newcomers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Politics (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Clara Sandelind
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2015 12:47
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2015 12:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8731

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