Divisive Nostalgia: How does the identity building that happens through civil society participation contribute to social cohesion or division?

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Society is becoming increasingly polarised, with opinions and political views sharply divided and fiercely contested. This polarisation frequently centres on identity, and differing opinions over who should be in- cluded in different identity categories and how they should be treated. In other words, who should get the benefit of being considered ‘us’ and who should be treated as ‘them’. Civil society organisations frequent- ly centre on the idea of inclusion, and therefore find themselves at the forefront of controversies around polarisation. In this paper, we’ll be looking at how these controversies are resisted or replicated through people’s participation in local civil society activity, drawing on ongoing research from the ESRC WISERD Civil Society Centre. We will be focusing on two case studies: the exhibition of the statue of Edward Col- ston at Bristol’s M Shed, and the backlash faced by One Britain One Nation Day. Both case studies focus on the tension that exists around the way national identity and national values should be defined and pre- sented. We consider how civil society can fall victim to politicised polarising discourse, as in the case of the M Shed, or alternatively claim to counter polarising ideology while perpetuating it, as in the case of One Britain One Nation.
Period07 Jul 2022
Event titleWISERD Annual Conference 2022: Civil society and participation: issues of equality, identity and cohesion in a changing social landscape
Event typeConference
LocationSwansea, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionLocal


  • nostalgia
  • polarisation
  • Civil Society
  • identity