London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

ISET Seminar January 2011


The ISET seminar series addresses key issues in the making and remaking of Europe, whether social, political, economic or cultural.  Its concerns extend beyond Europe's borders to the global challenges of the twenty-first century.

Monday 31 January 2011 at 5pm

Migrations of Class

Bev Skeggs and Ben Rogaly

At a time when class differences are simultaneously denied and magnified in moral panics (about 'broken Britain', the 'feral underclass' and so on) this seminar addresses the issue of class in contemporary Britain.  In their exploration of representations and lived experiences of class Bev Skeggs and Ben Rogaly make a crucial and timely intervention as inequalities are deepened and access to education, jobs and welfare threatened.

Ben Rogaly, University of Sussex
‘Indigenous’ transnationalism: life geographies of the ‘white working class’

White middle-class journalists portray white working-class people in England either as irredeemably racist or as an indigenous tribe under threat of extinction. In both cases they are fixed – they do not (in some portrayals cannot) move either socially or spatially but rather respond to the presence of mobile newcomers in their midst, often people of colour. Drawing on joint work with Becky Taylor, I argue first that, although the high degree of inequality in contemporary Britain and the barriers to social mobility have been well-documented, their effects are not confined to any particular ethnicised or racialised group. Secondly, class is inherently relational: classes are co-produced - both in material/occupational terms and as identifications – a study of a single class does not make sense without reference to other classes. Thirdly, by asking people seen by media commentators as by definition not- immigrants about their own connections across space, including memories of lives lived elsewhere, we can develop a deeper understanding of how identities based on class, ‘race’, ethnicity and nation are made. This presentation delves into the memories of white working class English people about their own and others’ translocal and transnational connections from the 1940s to the present day.

Ben Rogaly teaches in the Department of Geography at the University of Sussex. His most recent book (with Becky Taylor) Moving Histories of Class and Community: Identity, Place and Belonging in Contemporary England was published in 2009 by Palgrave.

Bev Skeggs, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Class relations: fear and desire, affect stripping and distancing

The basic principle that one person's gain is another's loss is a key premise for understanding class, be it the Marxist understanding of exploitation and the use of a person's energy and time to make profit or the weberian use of status and property distinctions to gain advantage. What I'm interested in exploring is why in the contemporary climate when the middle-classes have achieved such advantage in comparison to the working classes (through the welfare state - education, law, social services) do they take such delight in denigrating those over whom they have considerable advantage? I'll explore through a research project how hate, contempt and denigration work to shape class relations. But also how the working-class are also used as a cultural source for replenishing middle-class culture. I'll also ask why so little attention is paid to the affective dimensions of class relations.

Bev Skeggs is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her publications include Formations of Class and Gender: Becoming Respectable (1997) and Class, Self and Culture (2004). She has recently completed an ESRC project: Making Class through Televised Ethical Scenarios with Helen Wood and Nancy Thumin.


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