‘Isles of Wonder’: performing the mythopoeia of utopic multi-ethnic Britain

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Silk, Michael (2015)

Within this article, I interrogate the mediated ‘narratives of nation’ told through the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Such narratives are not just pedagogic, they are political and ideological processes that require us to pose questions about the place of the past in the present and with regard to who is entitled to speak that past. I suggest that the ceremony performed an ‘aesthetic of selective silence’ and offered a platform to induce nostalgia and identification beyond our own selves while offering a powerful historical teleology: multi-ethnic Britain was given no past, rather, the ‘noises’ that were amplified in the present provided a common, fixed and concretely grounded past that centred on an Anglicized, simple, stable, safe and pure fantasy in which divisions – gendered, classed, raced – were mere historical artifacts. I argue that the ceremony provided for the delivery of a multi-ethnic national fantasy that highlights central issues of being, belonging, privilege and hierarchy within a postcolonial heterophilic Britain, and which reasserts a utopic abstraction of nation and assimilation to core British values.
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