This interdisciplinary, inter-institutional project seeks to enhance our understanding of the processes and outcomes of transformation in cultural and national identity. At the heart of the project are the experiences of French students engaged in learning programmes in London universities. We are interested in how students construct their French cultural and national identity at the start of their studies in London, and how this may be transformed over the duration of their course. Of particular interest are the ‘on-programme’ and ‘off-programme’ interactions that the students have, and that may shape their identity as French students in a global, yet profoundly Anglophone environment.

The research, which is set to begin in September 2017, will draw on critical and cultural theories that consider cultural identity “not as an essence but a positioning” (Hall 1990; Lustig and Koester, 2000; Weedon, 2004) and as an “enunciation” (Bhabha 1994 and 1995) to be analysed in its intercultural relational dimensions (Bardhan and Orbe, 2013; Fong, 2004; Hegde, 1998; Kim, 2000; Langellier, 2004).

The vast and growing body of cultural and media scholarship on identity and culture in a globalised world invites us to look beyond ethnic or national essentialism to consider diasporic identity formation as multidimensional and fluid hybrids (Anthias, 1998 and 2000; Hall, 1995 and 1996; Pieterse 1995; Smith, 1995) that feed off the transnational flows and “perspectival landscapes” of globalisation (Appadurai’s “scapes”, 1990; Portes, 1997 and 1999; Ram, 2004; Sarup, 1996; Sassen, 2008; Yep, 1998).

Our focus will be on processes of identity formation, construction and performance to explain the different ways in which students who are studying abroad (in this case studying at London institutions) construct, perform and present their identities as nomads (Bradiotti, 1994), through constant cultural negotiations between the familiar and the different (French vs British culture, or European identity vs British), between homes and languages, and between different aspects of their cultural identities, such as sexuality, gender, ethnicity, religion, food and social class.

Key research questions

  1. How do young people construct their cultural and national French identity?
  2. Do young people’s cultural and national French identities undergo a transformation over the course of their studies in London?
  3. What kinds of processes are involved in the transformation of their identities?
  4. Are there different types of transformational trajectories that can be identified?

Research team