The Clowns of Downing Street: Brexit Texts and the Citizens of Nowhere (Panel)


Special Session
British and Anglophone / Cultural, Historical, and Political Studies

Julie Briand-Boyd (University of Glasgow)
jmes@****.com (Log-in to reveal)

This session seeks papers that engage with British and European texts (literature, comics, and film) that examine and express fears and anxieties of Brexit and its far-right populism. Additionally, this session will give consideration to papers that focus on the 2019 conference theme of “Send In the Clowns,” which may involve Brexit literature, comics, or film that engage with satire, humor, or the carnivalesque.

In the second volume of Ali Smith's seasonal quartet entitled Winter (2017), she opens with a quote from Prime Minister Theresa May, which was uttered at the Tory party conference in 2016: ‘But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere’.

Some have always been citizens of nowhere across Britain, ranging from the expulsed Roma peoples and Jewish diaspora to the displaced migrants workers of Romania and Poland, and the non-white immigrants of the former colonies (Afro-Caribbean, Indian, and Pakistani). This sense of national-cultural homelessness in Britain has further been sparked among England’s Celtic cousins, as well. In the North of Britain especially, the failed Scottish independence of 2014 which prevented Scotland to access recognition of its national status in the world led to the rise of discourses of nationlessness (or the post-national movement) across Scotland and Ireland, as well. The political stunt of Brexit not only revived fears of isolationism, anti-immigration policies, Islamophobia, intensified classism, and right wing populism, but it also brought forth more questions about the independent vocation of Scotland, and it even revealed the vicious colonial relationship between the English and the Irish. In every possible way, the Brexit Campaign and the policies of the Conservative Party have exposed the ignorance, negligence and the incompetence of the clowns of Westminster, reminding the world of the imperial and colonial follies that Britain has ignored for centuries. For many, Brexit most importantly revealed their own status as citizens of nowhere, which has further lead to widespread panic, terror, and precarity among the most precarious peoples living and working in Britain, and in the cosmopolitan city of London.

Therefore, this panel welcomes papers discussing the rise of Brexit texts depicting not only the aftermath and the political and social consequences of this referendum, but also the people affected by it, namely the citizens of nowhere. Submissions may include papers on contemporary British literature and culture (with an emphasis on Scottish and Irish literature/culture) to many cultural texts concerning Brexit across Europe and the world.