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Land of Hope and Glory: Englishness, Imperialism and Audiences of Major Sport Events

Loveman, Edward (2023) Land of Hope and Glory: Englishness, Imperialism and Audiences of Major Sport Events.
At the time of writing, public debate about the imperialism associated with ‘Englishness’ and subsequent marginalisation of ‘other’ identities has become increasingly salient. From the European Union Referendum to the mourning of Elizabeth II’s passing, explicit displays of the contention between identity, hierarchy and privilege are plentiful. But what of those everyday practices and spaces in which the boundaries of an imagined national community are enacted? In conjunction with other day-to-day sources of nationhood – literature, religion, monarchy, and so forth – sport is an omnipresent domain in which individual fears about being and belonging are played out. This thesis examines the cultural significance of high-profile major sport events (MSEs) to audiences’ production, embodiment and creation of ‘Englishness.’ It begins with a postcolonial reading of ‘Englishness’ that considers the interplay of imperialism, nationhood and sport viewership. Following this, a philosophical discussion about the nature of truth and knowledge serves as the entry point for broader consideration of the sensory experience of participant households/families watching MSEs. Through a methodology based on “watching people watching” MSEs, this work engages with the mundane, everyday and taken-for-granted parts of sport viewership through which imperial imaginaries, ‘othering’ processes, English exceptionalism and forms of ‘motivated ignorance’ remain unnoticed and unchallenged in the practices of MSE audiences. I argue that participants were (re)defining, (re)producing and (re)enforcing social hierarchies of belonging based on arbitrary characteristics of an imperially defined ‘Englishness’ and highlighting a collective responsibility for inequity. This thesis therefore contributes to dialogues at the intersection of imperialism, nationalism and sport viewership by presenting the ‘concrete’ ways in which – actively unaware or otherwise – difference may be enacted.
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