Performing National Identity
Edited by Manfred Pfister and Ralf Hertel
National identity is not some naturally given or metaphysically sanctioned racial or territorial essence that only needs to be conceptualised or spelt out in discursive texts; it emerges from, takes shape in, and is constantly defined and redefined in individual and collective performances. It is in performances—ranging from the scenarios of everyday interactions to ‘cultural performances’ such as pageants, festivals, political manifestations or sports, to the artistic performances of music, dance, theatre, literature, the visual and culinary arts and more recent media—that cultural identity and a sense of nationhood are fashioned. National identity is not an essence one is born with but something acquired in and through performances.
Particularly important here are intercultural performances and transactions, and that not only in a colonial and postcolonial dimension, where such performative aspects have already been considered, but also in inner-European transactions. ‘Englishness’ or ‘Britishness’ and Italianità, the subject of this anthology, are staged both within each culture and, more importantly, in joint performances of difference across cultural borders. Performing difference highlights differences that ‘make a difference’; it ‘draws a line’ between self and other—boundary lines that are, however, constantly being redrawn and renegotiated, and remain instable and shifting.