Finding uncommon ground: working-class identity politics after Labourism

Finding uncommon ground: working-class identity politics after Labourism[1] Don’t talk to me of fucking representing the class yer were born into any more. Yer going to get ’urt and start resenting it’s not poetry we need in this class war. Yer’ve given yerself toffee, cunt. Who needs yer fucking poufy words. Ah write mi own. Ah’ve got mi work on show all ovver Leeds like this UNITED ’ere on some sod’s stone. Tony Harrison, V You don’t choose the family or the circumstances you are born into but you can choose your tribe Katy Perry Between tribe and multitude: the shape-shifters of class For many on the British left, ‘identity politics’ emerged out of the radical student and youth cultures of the late 1960s, at a time when the onward march of Labour was beginning to grind to a halt in the face of the first wave of de-industrialisation. Identity [Read More…]

Finding Uncommon ground : re-thinking  working class identity politics in post Brexit Britain 

  Part One : Subtle Dialectics,Crude Thoughts  ‘In order to save the Party we had to destroy it’ (with  acknowledgement to Bert  Brecht) After the so called uprising of June 23/When  business and political leaders /had leaflets distributed /stating that the people/had forfeited their confidence/and could win it back only/by redoubled efforts  in another referendum /Would it not be easier in this case /for the government/to dissolve the people/and elect another?/Such a subtle dialectic/Trading places with  such crude thoughts. After the  attempted  coup of June 28/when members of the PLP/had leaflets distributed/stating that their leader/had forfeited their confidence /and could only win it back/by giving up the ghost/would it not be easier in this case also /to dissolve the membership/and elect a committee of psycho-pomps/to lead the now non-existent party/to a new underworld ?/Such a crude thought/In search of  subtle dialectic. I wrote this poem  because I was  invited to [Read More…]

BOTH SIDES OF THE LINE Stuart Hall and ‘New Ethnicities, then and now

In June  1992 Stuart Hall came to the University of East London to give the inaugural lecture for the Centre for New Ethnicities Research  to which I had just been appointed director. I had been working for a number of years at the Institute of Education developing an approach to  anti -racist work with young people  based on  ethnographic research  in schools, playgrounds, housing estates and neighbourhoods  in East London. The focus, then  as now,  was on trying to understand the impact of   economic change  on the livelihoods, life styles,  and life stories of  the people most directly affected and their families over a long period of time.  East London, and especially the    Isle of Dogs where much of this  work took place  was  then a front line of racial tension  between a long established  working class community traumatised by the closure of the docks, and  more recently arrived Bangladeshi [Read More…]

FINDING COMMON GROUND: mappings of community and activism

Full text of a talk given to the Opening Plenary of the MeCCSA conference on Communities  at Canterbury,Christchurch University    Looking Forward, looking back: the avatars of modernity It is that time of year when the commentariat like to look back at the year that has just gone, to award prizes to those who have lived up to their expectations and brickbats  to those who have not, and  also look forward  to the year to come to find new principles of hope or despair. I guess we all do this to some extent. We look back in anger or regret,satisfaction or disappointment at what we have and have not achieved and try to glean from these memories some cause for optimism about ourselves and the world going forward. This can be an invitation to engage in counter factual  speculation : what if, if only, what might have been.  This is [Read More…]

Young East Ender’s Views of Regeneration: The North Woolwich Story

North Woolwich is part of the Royal Docks  but is physically isolated by virtue of its physical  geography and for many years was  subject to neglect by planners and politicians alike . It has a large  concentration of social housing and has been home to a large , and increasingly ethnically diverse  working class community. East Europeans are the latest immigrants to an area which . Until very recently the area was relatively untouched by  the gentrification of the Docklands.  A proposed Thames Gateway bridge, designed  to replace the ferry, linking the North Woolwich with the south bank was vigorously opposed by local people on the grounds that it would increase road traffic  while doing nothing to improve the area’s economic prospects. The original plan for the Bridge was scrapped  after numerous objections to a public enquiry in 2007, but now (2013) there is a move  to reinstate  it.  In [Read More…]

Race, Ethnicity and the Unconscious

This is an excerpt from a seminar I gave in Vienna in which I explore some of the problems and possibilities of applying  psychoanalytic concepts and insghts to understanding and tackling  the culture of popular racism.

Empires of the Mind

This film was originally made to accompany the Open University Course on ‘Race, Culture and Society’ and explores the popular imagery of  race, nation and empire that was in circulation in the Victorian school.

Labouring Under Whiteness

This text explores the history and forms of working class racism in Britain  since the beginning of the Industrial revolution  up to the present. It examines the way the English working class was positioned as a both a ‘backbone of the nation’ and a ‘race apart’ in the dominant discourse and how this shaped  the internal development of its culture and politics, especially within the labour movement. It was written for a  collection edited by Ruth Frankenberg Dislocating Whiteness  published in 2002 and can be viewed here:  White Labour

Tricks of the Trade – Issues in MultiCultural Education

Tricks of the trade  (text) In the 1990’s I ran a series of projects designed to develop a cultural studies based approach  to anti-racist education, to get away from the moral, doctrinaire and frankly authoritarian methods and rationalist pedagogies that were then in vogue. In this text I outline the theory and method of an alternative approach, illustrated with examples of the classroom practice. Read the full text here:  Tricks of the Trade This  video was made to accompany the teaching materials , and explore some of the thinking behind the project. Tricks of the Trade  Matrix Image:  This is a photo-montage ‘Anansi Rap attack’ designed by Peter  Dunn, which was used as a trigger for classroom artwork as part of the Tricks of the Trade Project.  Click on the image to view it full size.

Its Racism Wot Dunnit – Some Notes on Theory’s Other Scene

This text was written for a course  developed for the Open University by Ali Rattansi and James Donald on ‘Race, Culture and Society’ in the 1990’s. The course  sought to bring to bear  some of the new ‘post structuralist thinking  about  discourse, power and culture  on issues of ethnicity  and identity politics  that were then dominated by essentialist and reductive  concepts of who and what was ‘racist’ and this text develops  this critique especially in relation to anti racist education. Read the full text here:  Racism Wot Dunnit