The proposed research project ‘Fashioning Georgian Englishness: Race, National Identity, and Codes of Proper Behaviour’ examines the interconnectedness of nationality, race, and conduct within an eighteenth-century colonial perspective. The interdisciplinary project argues that race played a vital but ambiguous role in the construction of the nascent English national identity in the Georgian era (1714–1830); however, since race was a fluid and heterogeneous concept, the racial and/or national status of English subjects was constructed through the vocabulary and practices of decency, propriety, refinement, and good conduct. Articulations and practices of class- and gender-based ‘proper behaviour’ were thus used to create a naturalised English national character that had a racial foundation.
The project employs an interdisciplinary methodology that combines cultural and intellectual historical methods with constructionist and postcolonial perspectives; through this approach, it examines race and national character as deeply performative, fictive constructions, created through internalising discursive knowledge. The project makes a significant and novel contribution to the history of eighteenth-century English nationalism, which has thus far ignored the importance of race for the construction of a national identity. Moreover, the questions and themes the research addresses also offer a highly fruitful point of comparison to recent processes of cultural interaction and exchange, and the structures of racism and nationalism in present-day Europe.
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