The Cultural Elephant In The Room

Notes: Science, Culture, Contexts

Interesting article popped up at Thony C. I really don’t read H.O.S blogging  anymore (I find it culturally problematic) but thought I should make the expedition as Thony produces some very subtle stuff indeed. This I would  read with very different eyes in relation to the looming independence vote in Scotland and the way a sense of being British or otherwise is increasingly a focus for the media. Multiple rather than single contexts playing out here.

Second time this week seen the same issue raised (in a highly contrary manner) first in relation to the way Scottish Nationalism used a sense of scientific genius to build a sense of Scottish identity here in the article Thony focuses on the relationship of an article flying the Great British flag for science to debates in H.O.S (he is a historian of science after all and the debate an interesting one). The article he examines emphasizing the Greatness of British Science and the special place of Britain in the development of the subject, although beneath the surface of the claim the focus seems very regional focusing very much on English achievement.

Focus on some wider cultural factors. First one is speculative but a feature in what may certainly fuel ongoing usage of this type of narrative with a distinct geographical focus.  I suspect this economic competition and the tendency for media to be centered in London to be a potential problematic mix in regard to ongoing political debates on British Identity in the coming months.

On a first cursory run through of the article,  looks very Southern English, its geographical referencing all Southern English center’s in competition for science and tech investment. In what is now a Britain of devolved powers their is increasing economic competition between, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and London. Devolution allowed the three other players to set up departments focusing on investment, London remains the only big English player with the administrative set up to compete.

Part of the sales pitch for these inward investment departments is the uniqueness of the local environment, in Scotland (its main competition London) its quality of life and balance of public/ private business that forms part of the distinctive selling pitch. The key geographical locations in Cox’s sales pitch for what makes British science unique, London, Cambridge, Oxford (the worlds end for many in the south).

I would expect this to be an ongoing live issue not simply in regard to the economics but also in regard to the looming date of the Scottish independence vote. Both Scotland and England have plenty of past form in using science and engineering in the flag waving antics of the administrative classes. Cox’s argument presents a very reassuring picture of British science with English identity firmly in the driving seat at a time when such certainties (with regard to ethnic identity rather than science, which is just the vehicle here)  in the real world are somewhat more anxious and less certain.

Interesting to see if this one has legs in the coming months. I must also find the time to listen to the radio four program on Scottish identity and nationalism that featured this issue in the first episode. Presentation and advertising for the series struck me as somewhat unbalanced and I did not bother to catch it live. Hopefully the program may prove to be better placing the issue in a wider European context as the building of such identities is often based on mirroring the moves of other players on the stage. The rule of this game, often straight forward theft and disguise.


So a date with radio four. Closer look at Cox. Return , rework this and watch the skies for further unidentified high flying objects potentially active in this area.

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