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Accepted Paper:

Leaving being 'Left behind': itineraries of operation and resistance in post-Brexit Britain.  
Ajmal Hussain (University of Warwick)

Paper short abstract:

This paper describes, through interactions with residents, entrepreneurs, artisans, social workers, activists, policy makers and others, how a territory designated as ‘left behind’ becomes a site of operation where people actively pursue aspirations and ambitions toward ‘leaving being ‘left behind’.

Paper long abstract:

The designation ‘left behind’ has gained traction in UK policy discourse as referent for people who inhabit territories abandoned by industries and economies of old. It is also a category reserved for particular people - white dispossessed - whose subsequent inclination toward populist politics renders them vulnerable to political designs of welfare retrenchment and austerity. This paper draws on recent ethnographic research conducted in Stoke-on-Trent, UK – popularly known as the ‘Brexit Capital of England’ – where the designation ‘left behind’ is overlooked when considering experiences of dispossession that mark the existence of ethnic minorities. And where processes of economic abandonment and socio-political remedy figure little when explaining the background to these lives as ‘left behind’. Concurrently, racialised pathologies persist in narratives of decline and loss to further restrict potentialities.

Rather than counterpose such divergences in representation and experience, this paper describes - through interactions with residents, entrepreneurs, artisans, social workers, activists, policy makers and others - how the territory designated ‘left behind’ becomes a site of operation where people actively pursue aspirations and ambitions toward ‘leaving being ‘left behind’. In what constitute new ‘grammars of the urban ground’ (Amin & Lancione 2022), racially dispossessed groups affect struggle through ‘forgetting’ (Simone 2022) what is going on around them - such as Brexit, welfare retrenchment - while looking out and over to new horizons. This paper will offer an ethnographic account of itineraries pursued by dispossessed minorities that remain off the radar in public and policy discourses on the left behind.

Panel P047
Living, leaving and undoing ‘left behindness’
  Session 2