Britpop's Common People – National identity, popular music and young people in the 1990's

Claudia Lueders

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The thesis discusses the significance of Britpop’s representation of British identity for British youth and their attitude towards British identity in the 1990’s. Taking issue with the dominant academic critique of Britpop as an ‘assertion of white, male, heterosexual Englishness’ (Bennett and Stratton, 2010, p.6; Percival, 2010; Hawkins, 2010; Whiteley, 2010) the thesis argues that Britpop’s representation of national identity was more complex and ambiguous than previously suggested by academia and that Britpop’s positive attitude towards Britain and its nostalgic image of British identity needs to be interpreted as a cultural critique of social, economic and political changes in the United Kingdom in the 90s. The concepts of ‘Imagined communities’ (Anderson, 1983) and of ‘Banal nationalism’ (Billig, 1995) are used as a starting point to explore the significant role of young people and popular music for the construction and reproduction of national identity.

Drawing on a qualitative textual analysis of Britpop lyrics, album reviews, and mainstream media coverage alongside data collected from qualitative interviews/surveys with musicians, PR agents, journalists, and fans, it also discusses how national identity is constructed and maintained through cultural references in popular music and related media discourses. The results of the empirical research which is focused on research categories such as British lifestyle/suburbia, ethnicity, gender and class show that Britpop’s heavy use of cultural references created a strong sense of nostalgia and played a significant role in Britpop’s mainstream success in the UK as it deliberately connected the contemporary culture of the younger generation with the cultural heritage of older generations which strengthened Britain’s image as a nation of great pop music and was celebrated in the 2012 Olympic games open/closing ceremonies. Finally, the thesis argues that in contrast to the British Invasion bands who were selling British pop music/identity abroad, Britpop bands were selling British pop music/identity back to the British people.
Original languageEnglish
Award date1 Feb 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 18 Jan 2017


  • national identity
  • popular music
  • youth
  • cultural memory

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