‘’Between head and hearts: Postcolonialism, emotions and Brexit’’ ‘’To what extent was the use of postcolonial misconceptions, imperial nostalgia and appeals to emotions present in the campaign strategy and tactics of the Leave side during the United Kingdom European Union membership Referendum (20th February 2016- 30th June 2016)?’’.
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On 23rd June 2016, the British public voted in favour of leaving the European Union (EU) following its 47 year long membership of the political and economic union. The result of the referendum shocked the international community, left uncertainty surrounding the future of European integration and has since resulted in the emergence of a great deal of literature committed to analysing the outcome of the referendum. Historically, EU referendums and their results have been a way of examining citizen voting behaviour in which political scientists analyse the result of the referendum in order to determine if public opinion on the current government or the EU had an effect on voting thus placing emphasis and attention on the referendum outcome itself. However, in recent years attention has shifted towards the campaign that precedes the referendum to understand voting behaviour by analysing the output and strategies of the respective campaigns and how they frame the narrative of the referendum topic in order to convince the voter to vote a certain way. Thus, this research explores the campaign output and strategy of the Leave Side and their use of postcolonial misconceptions and imperial nostalgia in order to make specific emotional appeals to their voters. In this context, it asks the following research question: To what extent was the use of postcolonial misconceptions, imperial nostalgia and appeals to emotions present in the campaign strategy and tactics of the Leave side during the United Kingdom European Union membership Referendum (20th February 2016- 30th June 2016)? This research answers the question by making use of several relevant analytical concepts including the ‘’emotional turn’’ in politics, the centrality of euroscepticism and exceptionalism to British politics and postcolonial Britain which together form the analytical framework central to this research. The content analysis is accomplished by making use of and consulting a variety of sources that illustrate a broad picture during the given timeframe of the output of the Leave side including campaign posters, key speeches, statements, newspaper articles and op-eds in order to answer the research questions. While a great deal of academic research exists on the traces of the Empire on the Eurosceptic arguments that underpin discourses opposing EU integration, the emotionality of such a framework remains largely underdeveloped. This thesis aims to challenge this emotional absence by examining the prevalence of imperial nostalgia and postcolonial remains in the campaign material of the Leave Side during the 2016 EU referendum in an effort to appeal to the emotions of the voters and thus contribute to the ‘’emotional turn’’ in international relations