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University of Basel

18 June 2018

“The Road to Brexit”: A Students’ Podcast Project

The white cliffs of Dover, seen from the deck of the ferry to France. (Image: Makiko Itoh/Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The white cliffs of Dover, seen from the deck of the ferry to France. (Image: Makiko Itoh/Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Students of the English department present their research results in the form of a podcast. In eleven contributions they explore the cultural reasons for “Brexit” as well as the reactions to the decision of Britons to leave the European Union. The podcast in English is now available online.

“Our whole team and many students were shocked at first,” recalls Professor of English Ina Habermann, thinking back to June 23, 2016. On this day a narrow majority of Britons voted for the so-called “Brexit,” which means that Britain decided to leave the European Union.

While the ‘Leave’-camp triumphed, many people in Great Britain and all over the world were more than surprised. What should be done now? What would the future bring? And above all: How could it come to this?

Ina Habermann explains: “To ask about the reasons and causes of this decision was for me the most interesting question. It became the central issue of my research seminar last autumn term.” Together with her students she traced the cultural preconditions and motifs which had led to Brexit: From Winston Churchill’s “Us vs. Them” rhetoric via nostalgic television series to the role of the popular press.

A Cultural Studies View of “Brexit”

Soon it became clear that the decision did not come out of the blue, and that Euroscepticism had been growing for some time in the fertile soil of historical entanglements between Britain and Continental Europe.

Eventually, Ina Habermann came up with the idea to produce a podcast with the help of the PhD student and radio journalist Ania Mauruschat. Its two aims: To present the results of the seminar to the public and at the same time to give students the possibility to try their hand at a new medium.

Twelve students wrote short texts on their research topic. “For me the most impressive part of this exciting project was the experience of limited space. Compared to a seminar paper there is so little room to develop a thought. It is stunning how concise one has to be,” says student Nataša Pavković. In her text she looked at the novel To Be Continued by the Scottish writer James Robertson, exploring how it portrays the difficult relationship of Scotland and England and their different opinions about the EU.

From Winston Churchill to Nigel Farage

Altogether, the podcast consists of eleven contributions, dealing for example with the “myth of Dunkirk,” the saving of British soldiers during the Second World War by their fellow countrymen, and with the first post-Brexit novel by the acclaimed writer Ali Smith. Another contribution looks at John Bull: The English “Everyman” emerged as a satirical figure in the early 18th century and became a symbol of national obstinacy. Nigel Farage, former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and one of the most vocal “Brexiteers,” successfully imitated this iconic figure for populist reasons.

The podcast “The Road to Brexit” effects an enlightening fusion of cultural studies research and radio journalism, now available to the public. It emerges from the research seminar “The Road to Brexit” taught by Ina Habermann, Professor of English and current Head of the English Department of the University of Basel. The course drew on the findings of Habermann’s research project “British Discourses of Europe,” which was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The podcast was realized with the support of Ania Mauruschat and produced at the New Media Center of the University of Basel.

Further information

Prof. Dr. Ina Habermann, University of Basel, Department of English, Tel. +41 61 207 27 87, E-Mail: ina.habermann@unibas.ch


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