The nation in context: How intergroup relations shape the discursive construction of identity continuity and discontinuity

Sandra Obradović*, Mhairi Bowe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


The perceived collective continuity (PCC) of a national identity serves as a crucial source of stability and self-esteem for group members. Recent work has explored the consequences of perceived continuity when the meaning of a nation’s past is seen in a negative light, and the challenges this brings for the negotiation of a positive identity in the present, signalling the potential value of perceived discontinuity The current paper extends this literature by examining the role of intergroup relations in the construction of both collective continuities and discontinuities. Through analysing the discursive management of national identity in nine focus groups in a post-conflict context (Serbia, N = 67), we reveal how the tensions between continuity and discontinuity are embedded within a broader discussion of the nation’s relationship with relevant national outgroups across its history. The findings contribute to theoretical knowledge on the interlinking of national identity and PCC by illustrating the ways in which intergroup relations of the past shape the extent to which continuity is seen as desirable or undesirable. We argue that despite the psychological merits of collective continuity, discontinuity can become attractive and useful when there is limited space to challenge how a nation’s history is remembered and the valence given to the past. The paper concludes by offering an account of how social and political contexts can influence the nature, functions, and valence of PCC within national identities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-508
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date9 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • discourse
  • EU integration
  • national identity
  • perceived collective continuity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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