Between the lines: Contours of nation, multiculture and race equality in policy discourse in the New Labour period


This thesis examines how New Labour policymakers and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME)-led race equality organisations articulated and connected themes of nation, multiculture and ‘race’ equality in policy discourse and discussions over the New Labour period. My study extends previous accounts of New Labour and multicultural discourses by incorporating the significant, but not always influential, role of BME civil society actors in such policy discussions. My research draws on documents and archival material from and interviews with policymakers and race equality actors. I analyse this data using a qualitative thematic approach to discern changing policy discourses and claims about the state of the multicultural nation and the place of race equality within it. In the study I suggest that, after a promising start, New Labour policymakers came to understand the relationship between nation, multiculture and race equality as a troubled and troubling one. At the same time, the three BME-led race equality organisations that I focus on in my research struggled to counter government discourses of parallel lives, community cohesion and Britishness that were detrimental to efforts to combat race inequality. Policy and policy discursive interventions of BME-led race equality organisations were thrown off course not only by New Labour but also by ‘new ethnicities’, and the idea of complex and diverse BMEness’. BME-led organisations have struggled to engage with this latter destabilisation, let alone develop a politics capable of overcoming such issues. I therefore end my thesis by suggesting that, if BME-led race equality organisations are to shape policy debates on race equality, there is much hard labour and re-thinking about BMEness and re-organising for them still to do.

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