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Duelling Commonwealth Family of Nations Metaphors and Britain’s Post-Brexit Global Identity

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This study examines the communication of conceptual metaphors in contemporary narratives of British politics, and specifically, the competitive communication of a Commonwealth ‘family of nations’ metaphor in the context of ongoing Brexit debates. This line of inquiry has been pursued through an analysis of parliamentary speeches made in the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the period from 23 June 2015 (1 year before the EU
Referendum) through October 2018, facilitated by the use of computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software. Although multiple ‘family of nations’ metaphors were identified, British parliamentarians made more references to the Commonwealth as a family unit than other multi-national groupings, and two prominent variants of this family metaphor have been defined. Speakers competed for control over the meaning of the base metaphor, with mainly
English Conservative speakers communicating a positive aspirational variant (framing the Commonwealth as a historically rooted, harmonious and prosperous alternative to the EU), while speakers from the other main parties communicated a competing critical judgmental variant (framing the Commonwealth as discriminatory, unequal and failing to defend shared human rights principles). It is argued that this metaphor, and particularly its positive aspirational
variant, contributes to a broader communicative effort to encourage the imagination of a transnational and global British orientation and identity outside Europe.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society
Pages (from-to)283-307
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Brexit, Britain, Commonwealth family, Digital humanities, Metaphor, Politics

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