Identity and belonging at the edge of England

By Phil Hubbard



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Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5385-2
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: June 2022
  • BIC Category: Geography, British Politics, Sociology, Nationalism, TRAVEL / Europe / Great Britain, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Physical, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography, Human Geography, Society & social sciences / Nationalism, Kent


Over recent years, the issues of Brexit, COVID and the 'migrant crisis' put Kent in the headlines like never before. Images of asylum seekers on Kent beaches, lorries queued on motorways and the crumbling white cliffs of Dover all spoke to national anxieties, and were used to support ideas that severing ties with the EU was the best - or worst - thing the UK has ever done.

In this coastal driftwork, Phil Hubbard - an exiled man of Kent - considers the past, present and future of this corner of England, alighting on a number of key sites which symbolise the changing relationship between the UK and its continental neighbours. Moving from the geopolitics of the Channel Tunnel to the cultivation of oysters at Whitstable, from Derek Jarman's feted cottage at Dungeness to the art-fuelled gentrification of Margate, Borderland bridges geography, history, and archaeology, to pose important questions about the way that national identities emerge from contested local landscapes.


'Borderland deftly combines thorough research and objective analysis with the author's intimate first-hand knowledge of place, as he revisits sites on foot in an extended field trip. Hubbard's unflinchingly questioning approach to the contested spaces he encounters is written with the ease of an armchair traveller's guide. The result is a peregrination peppered with gems of descriptive detail and astute personal reflections. Ultimately, Borderland isn't just about Kent. It's a book that scrutinises how - wherever we live - we perceive, shape, reimagine and reinvent place to suit our own uses and desires.'
Sonia Overall, author of Heavy Time

'It's been called the "frayed edge" of England, but our coastline is by no means just wearing out. As emerges from this highly revealing excursion around the coast of Kent, it is also being restitched and fortified as the frontline of an "exclusionary nationalism" thanks to which even insects and oysters are being asked to prove they're not aliens. Although horrifying in places, as the times demand, Borderland is full of contrary energy too.'
Patrick Wright, author of The Sea View Has Me Again: Uwe Johnson in Sheerness

'A timely interrogation of the connection between place and identity in the post-Brexit era. Hubbard's Kentish borderland is an ever-shifting space, rife with contradictions, culture clashes, and eco-anxiety.'
Gareth E. Rees, author of Car Park Life

With an impressive mix of erudition and accessibility, Phil Hubbard's Borderland shines the light on an English South East that is rarely apprehended - let alone comprehended - by Middle England and the London establishment. Venturing into a Kentish coastal terrain transformed into a new debatable land by Brexit and recurrent migrant crises, Hubbard manages to combine sympathy for the plight of refugees with great sensitivity in exploring wider questions of twenty-first century citizenship, national identity, and political representation. This is a book which asks all the right questions with immense eloquence and remarkable understanding of a people and a place.'
Alex Niven, author of New Model Island

'A brilliant book. Superficially, a story of part of the Kent coast. However, under its surface Borderland, is a search for England's soul - and soullessness.'
Danny Dorling, author of Rule Britannia: Brexit and the End of Empire

'A powerful, poignant and beautifully written journey through the frontier lands of Brexit Britain. This is travel writing with a purpose, charting an anxious and often hostile landscape with care and passion.'
Alastair Bonnett, author of The Age of Islands: In Search of New and Disappearing Islands


1 The new edge of Europe?
2 Natives
3 Albion on sea
4 Defending the nation
5 The white horse
6 Boat people
7 The strange coast
Afterword: The Kent variant

List of figures


Phil Hubbard is Professor of Urban Studies at King's College London. He has published widely on questions of class, gentrification and the impacts of urban policy on socially marginalised populations. His books include Cities and Sexualities, The Battle for the High Street, and Key Ideas in Geography: City.

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