Bonacchi C, Altaweel M & Krzyzanska M (2018) The heritage of Brexit: Roles of the past in the construction of political identities through social media. Journal of Social Archaeology, 18 (2), pp. 174-192. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469605318759713
This article assesses the role of the pre-modern past in the construction of political identities relating to the UK’s membership in the European Union, by examining how materials and ideas from Iron Age to Early Medieval Britain and Europe were leveraged by those who discussed the topic of Brexit in over 1.4 million messages published in dedicated Facebook pages. Through a combination of data-intensive and qualitative investigations of textual data, we identify the ‘heritages’ invoked in support of pro- or anti-Brexit sentiments. We show how these heritages are centred around myths of origins, resistance and collapse that incorporate tensions and binary divisions. We highlight the strong influence of past expert practices in shaping such deeply entrenched dualistic thinking and reflect over the longue durée agency of heritage expertise. This is the first systematic study of public perceptions and experience of the past in contemporary society undertaken through digital heritage research fuelled by big data. The article is thus foundational, contributing significantly to theory in cultural heritage studies. It is also the first published work to analyse the role of heritage in the construction of political identities in relation to Brexit, via extensive social research.
Digital heritage; political identities; Brexit; imperialism; big data; Roman; pre-Roman; Medieval
Journal of Social Archaeology: Volume 18, Issue 2