The present is a foreign country: Brexit and the performance of victimhood

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Abstract

This article examines the campaign of the Brexit Party via the conceptual frameworks of cultural performance and the politics of victimhood. The Brexit Party depicts the post-industrial working class communities as forgotten and betrayed and attacks the Labour Party for its stance on Brexit. While current research on national populism focuses on demographic and cultural changes and highlights a prevailing distrust of the political establishment there is little as to how victimhood is performed by the agents of national populism. By deploying Jeffrey Alexander’s conceptualisation of cultural performance, the article identifies the current status of victimhood and its political communication in the Brexit debate. As a result, the post-industrial working class becomes the victim of failed policies and the authentic voice of a country unable to assert its dominance in the world. The social actors in the Brexit Party’s campaign are being motivated by and towards concerns, the meanings of which are defined by signifiers of inequality and nostalgia. The article makes two arguments: the cultural performance of victimhood is a precondition for articulations of nationalism and belonging; the cultural performance of victimhood is integral for the communication of loss, democratic deficit and for presenting the working class as a racialised minority.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Politics
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Brexit
  • Performance
  • Recognition
  • Victimhood
  • Working class identity

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