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Author:James Sevitt (The Graduate Center, City University of New York)
Paper short abstract:
Contemporary Wales is a unique post-colonial society given its historical experience of being both colonized and a colonizer. Drawing on my ethnographic study of banter in a post-industrial town in south Wales, this paper illuminates how this legacy of entangled dominant/marginalized power dynamics is enacted in everyday life.
Paper long abstract:
Contemporary Wales is a unique post-colonial society given its historical experience both as England’s first colony in 1282 and a junior partner in the British imperial enterprise. On the one hand, the Welsh experience of social and spatial marginalization,
impressed upon it by English colonization, has been exacerbated over the years by varying forms of economic and cultural exploitation, most recently through the devastating impact of deindustrialization. On the other hand, the participation of Wales in the British colonial domination of “non-white” colonies enabled south Wales to become one of the centers of the industrial revolution throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. This paper draws on my ethnographic study of banter in a post-industrial town in south Wales in order to illuminate how this legacy of entangled dominant/marginalized power dynamics is variously enacted in everyday contemporary life. In attending to the ambiguous functions of banter -- an intersubjective practice of intense back and forth teasing variously described by my interlocutors as “affectionate abuse” and “on the edge of jocular and nasty” -- I analyze how banter enables inclusionary and exclusionary communal dynamics by serving to both naturalize and denaturalize social hierarchies and inequalities. Furthermore, I analyze how heightened polarization in post-industrial, post-colonial south Wales, brought to the fore by Brexit’s protracted “Leave vs. Remain” divide, is underpinned by a “modern banter war” fuelled by two opposed sides with conflicting views on where and when affectionate banter crosses the line into abusive bigotry.
Shared marginal experiences? Comparing postcolonial memories from the European margins