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Negotiating the Australian nation: young Australians’ everyday experiences of national identity and belonging

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posted on 2023-01-18, 15:38 authored by Lana Chung
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Department of Social Inquiry, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

Globalisation and the increasingly diverse makeup of nations have resulted in continuing debate about the role of nationhood in social life. Discourses of anti-racism, equality and human rights have underpinned policies of multiculturalism and reinforced the notion of global citizenship. In Australia, multiculturalism and ethnic diversity have challenged cultural homogeneity and rendered “traditional” constructions of Australian-ness incongruous with the modern nation-state. The resultant lack of consensus about Australia’s national culture and character has contributed to a seemingly perpetual search for a distinctive and concrete sense of Australian identity. Yet the nation remains a powerful source of collective identity for many individuals. Indeed, the sense of dislocation that follows from social change has also seen national identities strengthened and reasserted. In Australia there has been much discussion during the last ten to fifteen years about a “resurgence”, particularly among young Australians, of a narrow and exclusivist Australian nationalism. But is the picture more complex than that? To what extent do broader social and cultural contexts complicate the construction and mobilisation of Australian national identity? In what ways do individuals problematize “the nation”? Are individual experiences of national identity mediated by the particulars of their lives? This thesis explores younger Australians’ experiences of being “national” in a multicultural nation and a globalised world. It uses in-depth interviews with Melburnians aged 18 to 40, from a range of backgrounds, to gain insight into the ways in which individuals negotiate Australian national identity and belonging. It is situated in a body of literature that examines the ways in which “ordinary” people talk about and make sense of national identity and belonging. Informed by the concept of everyday nationalism, it emphasises the role of individuals as active participants in the construction and reproduction of nationhood. Through an examination of “performing” the nation via Australia Day and Southern Cross tattoos, the deployment of a cosmopolitan “outlook” in navigating the multicultural nation, the ambivalence and ambiguity of nation-ness, and the personal contexts of national identity and belonging, this thesis demonstrates that the relationship between individuals and “their” nation is complex and dynamic rather than straightforward and fixed.


Center or Department

School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Department of Social Inquiry.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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