Society for the Anthropology of Europe
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Three years on, the consequences of the 2016 Brexit referendum continue to reverberate throughout the United Kingdom. The constitutional, political and demographic divisions that the referendum both exposed and accentuated grow with every passing year. Yet the ethnographic response to this epoch-changing event has been largely underwhelming. This is a puzzling state of affairs given that Brexit foregrounds many issues of intense disciplinary scrutiny: migration, kinship, education and nationality.
In this paper, I explore the ways in which literature on crisis and epistemic rupture illuminate but do not adequately make sense of the new articulations of legitimacy in transnational European governance. I argue that anthropology is uniquely suited towards understanding the tacit cultural responses to the referendum both as it reflects on citizen’s views of their own ‘imagined community’ and of the broader global context. Moreover, attending to the cultural contents of ‘Remainer’ and ‘Leaver’ perspectives further illuminates the consequences of class and educational divisions.
In addition, I engage with key theoretical and ethnographic literature on populism: an important but still relatively nascent facet of political anthropology. In doing so, I attempt to answer what I perceive as the new key problematic in British political life: what actually is the will of ‘the people’ and, with still no Brexit in sight, what might be the consequences of derailing it?