Securing disunion: young people’s nationalism, identities and (in)securities in the campaign for an independent Scotland

Katherine Botterill, Peter Hopkins, Gurchathen Singh Sanghera, Rowena Arshad

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This paper explores ethnic and religious minority youth perspectives of security and nationalism in Scotland during the independence campaign in 2014. We discuss how young people co-construct narratives of Scottish nationalism alongside minority ethnic and faith identities in order to feel secure. By critically combining literatures from feminist geopolitics,international relations (IR) and children’s emotional geographies, we employ the concept of‘ontological security’. The paper departs from state-centric approaches to security to explore the relational entanglements between geopolitical discourses and the ontological security of young people living through a moment of political change. We examine how everyday encounters with difference can reflect broader geopolitical narratives of security and insecurity, which subsequently trouble notions of ‘multicultural nationalism’ in Scotland and demonstrate ways that youth ‘securitize the self’ (Kinnvall, 2004). The paper responds to calls for empirical analyses of youth perspectives on nationalism and security (Benwell,2016) and on the nexus between security and emotional subjectivity in critical geopolitics(Pain, 2009; Shaw et al., 2014). Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council(AHRC), this paper draws on focus group and interview data from 382 ethnic and religious minority young people in Scotland collected over the 12-month period of the campaign.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-134
Number of pages11
JournalPolitical Geography
Early online date20 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • Nationalism
  • Young people
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Ontological security
  • Everyday geopolitics


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