Author: Daniel Evans, Bangor University

Day One – Tuesday 25th June

Strand – Identity and Place

Session One: 11.30am – 1pm

Denis Balsom’s paradigmatic ‘Three Wales model’ split Wales into three geographical regions, each demarcated by the strength of national identity within the region. The model intriguingly sketched the outline of a seemingly ‘ambivalent’ or ‘least Welsh’ region, labelled ‘British Wales’. As well as highlighting the relative ‘weakness’ of Welsh identity in this region, the model also implied a causal link between social class, class milieu and the strength of Welsh identity. Since Balsom’s work, ‘British Wales’ has been conspicuous by its absence from Welsh political discourse, despite ever increasing class polarization between the regions of Wales.

Drawing on qualitative interviews with respondents in Porthcawl, a traditionally ‘ambivalent’ middle class town in South Wales, this paper engages with the relationship between social class and national identity in an attempt to explore the ostensible weakness of Welsh identity within this region.

Building on recent research, I demonstrate that the strong class connotations of Welshness within popular discourse make middle class people feel uncomfortable or uneasy about classing themselves as ‘properly’ Welsh. Moreover, engaging with Bourdieu’s notion of distinction, I show that within this middle class milieu, ‘Welshness’ frequently enters the process of classification as shorthand for being ‘common’.

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