Analysis of state identity constructions can provide important insights into the ideologies, values, ambitions and policies of influential state actors. Existing research on state identities has focused mainly on how such identities are constructed and utilised within domestic politics or conventional inter-state/international relations but limited attention has been paid to how states construct their identities in relation to, and through, overseas territories that occupy liminal positions of sovereignty. This article addresses this gap by investigating how state actors have discursively constructed the UK’s identities through the lens of environmental protection in the UK’s overseas territories. It analyses UK parliamentary debate between 2010 and 2018, identifying how territory environments were enrolled in the production of multiple state identities, representing differing spatial imaginaries of the UK, its power and responsibilities at a time of environmental crisis and the search to define the UK’s post-Brexit status and roles. This shape-shifting capacity underscores how states may draw on a multiplicity of personas in response to different circumstances that become particularly noticeable where uncertainty and ambiguity exist around the ethics, power relations and responsibilities involved in relations with overseas territories in an ostensibly postcolonial era.

Publication Date


Publication Title

Small States and Territories

Embargo Period


Organisational Unit

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences