Accepted paper:

Cultural Politics and the White Working Classes in Britain

Author:

Gillian Evans (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

Exploring recent media controversies about the alienation of the white working classes in Britain, this paper analyses contemporary cultural politics in order to consider the analytical utility of concepts such as class and culture now that they have become common ethnographic terms.

Paper long abstract:

Whilst Bermondsey people lament the death of an industrial, inner-city community based on closely knit ties of kinship and residence or 'born and bred' criteria of belonging - and are preoccupied with trying to defend their way of life - learning 'how to have an explicit cultural identity', to be a 'new ethnic group' in order to compete in a multicultural social climate - the political and economic struggles which have historically defined what it means to be working class in Britain are forced into the background. This highlights the present danger, which is that even as we celebrate multiculturalism in Britain or wonder whether it has past its sell-by date, little emphasis is placed on those institutions - political or economic - through which relatively poor people - black, white and Asian - might once have come together to know themselves collectively as working class. Eager to capitalise on this shift in the political landscape the British National Party promotes an agenda of racial and cultural nationalism, gaining votes in areas of the country where the white working classes feel increasingly at unease about a Labour government which no longer speaks their language and whose policy makers focus, meanwhile, on 'community cohesion' and national integration. Exploring recent media controversies about the alienation of the white working classes in Britain, this paper analyses contemporary cultural politics in order to consider the analytical utility of concepts such as class and culture now that they have become common ethnographic terms.

panel P28
Social transformation in the United Kingdom: appropriation, class and identity