Emotions of Home and Housing
This online seminar has been organised by the Cities, Environment and Liveability (CEL) Pathway and the Urban Studies and Planning Department, University. This seminar is open to ESRC and non-ESRC funded PhD and MA Social Research students within the seven interdisciplinary Pathways across the WRDTP partner universities.
Part of ‘Feeling Class: Emotions, Bodies and the Affective Politics of Social Inequality’ seminar series
This weekly seminar series brings together thirteen scholars from Sociology, Geography, History, Urban Studies, Criminology and Literary Studies to discuss the emotional, embodied and affective dynamics of social class. For the first three weeks four speakers will share research on topics including stigmatisation, migration, place, housing, solidarity and love. The series ends with a keynote lecture from Professor Anoop Nayak.
For further information on this seminar series please contact Jay Emery (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Week 2 speakers
Rowan Jaines (Sheffield): ‘Inside and outside at the same time’: White working class others in the fens of Eastern England
This paper focuses on the fen landscape in the East of England as an area that is home to a particular kind of non-metropolitan working class experience. There is no other place in the UK where food manufacture and distribution is so dominant. Low paid seasonal work prevails in the fens, carried out by Romanians, Lithuanians, Bulgarians and Poles as well as the local domestic population. Schools struggle and there are very high numbers of people with no qualifications. Over half of this disproportionately white population experiences “deprivation”; people have problems with their teeth and there are high levels of “preventable early death”. This is also a landscape holding five of the districts most heavily in favour of leaving the European Union. It is thus also a place where genuine fear and lived experience of abuse at the hands of anti-immigrant prejudice is interwoven with a shared caricature of “poor white working class Brits” (Rzepnikowska 2019: 71). These sketches of “Brexit voters” echo dominant imagery compiled piecemeal from a familiar list of normative characteristics ascribed to those living in poverty. In a language remarkably similar to 19th century colonial discourse of racialisation, these include but are not limited to: violence and criminality; excessive fleshiness with its accompanying stench and fecundity; lack of ambition, and; inability to delay gratification (Haylett 2001; Rzepnikowska 2019).The fen landscape – and its history as land reclaimed for industrial farming – is a medium upon which an ideological slippage between economic poverty and poverty of character can be glimpsed. This paper will interrogate the spectre of the “poor white other” in my own research. I will trace the ways that this long-standing ideological construct – which is not just inextricably linked with processes of racialised prejudice but is necessary to these practices – is animated and articulated across different groups.
Sam Strong (Cambridge): Love in the time-space of inequality
This paper approaches class as an affective relation—where one’s classed position and identity is produced by, but also productive of, affective intensities. To examine this dialectic, it specifically explores the relationship between love, class and inequality. Love is understood in three senses: as a feeling (to love); as a relationality (to love something/someone); and as a spatial disposition and classed identity (to be in love). It draws on sustained and ongoing ethnographic research in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea—arguably the UK’s most unequal place (Dent-Coad, 2017). This paper centres on the testimony of one resident of a more deprived part of the borough. This resident is currently ‘in love’ and in a relationship with a resident from a far more affluent part of the borough. Despite their respective wards being geographically proximate, they are worlds apart. Illustrated statistically, these differences are stark: across Kensington and Chelsea life expectancy varies by 12 years, and despite the borough having the highest mean per household income in the country, 16% of its residents are classified as ‘low paid’ (ONS, 2018).In this paper, I want to explore how inequality, class and social difference are felt, performed and lived through the experience of love. Rather than romanticising the affective quality of love, this paper demonstrates how it is both produced and productive of inequality. Firstly, the feeling of love is one that as much builds classed barriers as it does break them down. For this participant, love is something that is itself shot through with inequality and class difference—in how it is expressed, felt and performed in embodied ways. Secondly, as with other emotions and affects, it does not exist in isolation: rather, love is a process that exists in relation with people, places and other feelings. This paper specifically examines the relationship between love and loss – and how the participant’s relationship forces her to question, but also defend and celebrate, her classed geographical identity. Finally, in drawing these points together, this paper considers what it means ‘to be in love’—and how a geographical account of love reveals its operation in and through the psychic landscape of class inequality.
Isabelle Carter (Sheffield): Space, class and belonging: a comparative study of post-war multi-storey council housing in Sheffield and Manchester.
This paper outlines a comparative case study analysis of mass, multi-storey council housing in inner-city Sheffield and Manchester from the 1970s to the 1990s. It attempts to highlight residents’ voices amidst the more prominent political and cultural narratives of these places, building on recent work in the fields of emotions and spatial history to explore how far these wider discourses intersected with the lived experience of working-class tenants.
Throughout the post-war period, multi-storey estates were sites of significant physical and social transition in Britain’s inner cities. Initially offering a higher standard of living to inhabitants of former slums, the optimism of their early years was soon succeeded by the realities of multiple deprivation in the 1970s and 1980s. Emotions were integral to representations of these estates, which came to be described by the government and the press alike as places of fear, depression and loneliness. Yet while these feelings were reinforced by some residents, others asserted a sense of belonging to their homes. Using community publications and oral histories alongside local government reports, this paper explores residents’ accounts of multi-storey living. Focusing on the latter years of their tenancy, whether reached involuntarily due to an estate’s demolition or the result of a decision to relocate to another area, the paper suggests that residents’ conflicting accounts of multi-storey housing in Sheffield and Manchester reveal the ways in which their experiences were shaped by the enduring emotional and classed connotations of different spaces.
Paul Watt (Birkbeck): ‘They don’t care if they hurt your feelings’: Emotions and class at London social housing estates undergoing regeneration
This paper analyses emotions and class at London social housing estates undergoing regeneration involving full or partial demolition. It is based on long-term ethnographic research including participant observation and in-depth interviews with the residents (tenants and leaseholders) of several London estates at various stages of the regeneration life-cycle. The paper examines the wide range of emotions that the residents displayed both in interviews and fieldwork settings. Despite the official regeneration narrative that residents would benefit from regeneration due to getting new improved homes and neighbourhoods (Watt, 2017), their actual experiences of the regeneration process – which lasts many years and even several decades – were anything but wholly positive. Instead, the largely working-class residents expressed a series of largely negative emotions as they struggled to live through a regeneration process which was not only protracted, but opaque and frustrating. Each section of the paper examines a specific set of emotions: cynicism and disbelief at the regeneration rationale and promises; nostalgia for the loss of their valued established homes and communities; anxiety and depression at where they were going to be moved to next; desperation and exhaustion at the length of time that the regeneration was taking; and a righteous fury at what had been forcibly removed from them by the ‘powers that be’. Such emotions illustrate the profound class and power imbalances that underpin estate regeneration.
Please note: This seminar series has not been organised by the WRDTP and as such all queries should be directed to Jay Emery as indicated above.