4 Introducing national identity
National identity can seem quite clear-cut on the surface: We associate a particular flag, an anthem, an official language, a capital, important historical events, food and music with it. Such official agreements on national symbols usually lead to the assumption that national cultures are homogenous. You will explore whether this assumption holds in the next few activities with examples from the UK and Singapore.
Read the quote below on national identity and try to fill in the blank:
Having a national identity is like having an _____________. You know you’ve got it somewhere, but you are not sure where it is. And if you’re honest, you would have to admit you’re pretty vague about what the small print says.
What word are we looking for?
The right answer is ‘old insurance policy’! Did you guess it – or something similar? This quote is a metaphor for the difficulty in defining one’s own national identity and it describes how ‘nationalism is simultaneously obvious and obscure’ (Billig, 1995).