Is there such a thing as “Englishness?” What would be at the heart of such a quality—habits and customs, the time reserved for a late-afternoon snack, the famously reserved sense of humor? I'm writing this from America, a country that can only define its people by their plurality and multifariousness, the "anything goes" mentality which frequently manifests itself as aberrant exceptionalism. But contemporary scholars and thinkers shun the idea that a national stock or stereotype even exists. Characterizing a country's people reveals more about the observer's bias and preconceptions than it does anything else. According to this line of thought, no, there is nothing essentially "English." To believe otherwise would be to risk the sin of "essentialism," that father of all hegemonies and their consequent injustices—patriarchy, racism, sexism, etc.—whose power structure depends on attributing intrinsic qualities to a certain group people, and delineating the qualities and the differences between them in order to justify the exploitation of one or more groups.
Sarah Lamb & David Donnelly in Liam Scarlett's “The Age of Anxiety.” Photograph by Bill Cooper