Brexit Wounds: arts and humanities responses to leaving the EU: introduction

Edited by Fionna Barber and Eleanor Byrne (Manchester Metropolitan University)


This special issue offers a timely and current critical evaluation of the morbid symptoms and potential wounds of ‘Brexit Culture’ as its implications, causes and effects unravel in front of a global audience via multiple media in real time. Brexit cultures, for the purposes of our articles here, attends to the role of cultural production in forging political choices, and to the cultural dimensions of Brexit – as a response to living in times of crisis and uncertainty. Departing from solely political or economic evaluations of Brexit’s effects, contributions to the special issue explore how the humanities and social sciences, artists and writers engage with the challenges, threats and potential disasters of Brexit. This issue interrogates how multiple constituencies that make up the inhabitants of the UK deal with a climate of continued uncertainty about definitions and effects of Brexit as they unfold in everyday cultural practices and specific locations, and what kind of responses or symptoms we can identify in current discourses of national and international culture. 

In these unusual and unprecedented circumstances, this issue brings together academics and practitioners from the arts, humanities and social sciences in a creative and constructive dialogue around the cultural issues posed by Brexit. The articles cover subjects such as migration, citizenship and populism, violent borders and hostile environments, Brexit as an empty vessel, imaginary landscapes, fictions of the nation, banal nationalism, Brexit wounds – hurts, pains and feelings. They reflect on conceptualisations of Brexit as disaster, deferral, delay and repetition, Brexlit and new cultural forms, Brexit metaphors and tautologies, populism and resistance, citizenship, race and belonging, Brexit’s effects on individuals, communities and constructions or depictions of families.

Keywords: Brexit, Great Britain, visual culture, arts, Europe

Full text: OAJ_issue8_introduction (pdf, 1.1 MB).


Biographical notes 

Fionna Barber is Reader in Art History at the Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University. Her current research interests focus on gender, postnationalism and the visual, particularly in an Irish context. She is the author of Art in Ireland since 1910 (Reaktion, 2013) and the initiator and co-curator of the exhibition Elliptical Affinities: Irish Women Artists and the Politics of the Body 1984- present (Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, and Limerick City Gallery of Art, November 2019 to March 2020).

Dr Ellie Byrne is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research and teaching covers twentieth-century British, American and postcolonial literature and theory, feminism and queer theory. In 2018, together with Fionna Barber, she convened the Brexit Wounds symposium, sponsored by the Manchester Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence (MJMCE). She has published on Hilary Mantel, Muriel Spark, Tove Jansson, Ali Smith, Queer Hospitality, Hanya Yanagihara and Jamaica Kincaid. She was co-investigator on the British Academy funded network ‘Troubling Globalisation: Arts and Humanities Approaches’ (2016–17).