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The incinerator and the beach

Community, activism, and the "Big Society" in a Sussex town

Elizabeth Harrison

This article interrogates the complex ways in which “community” is constructed in a Sussex town. It contributes to long-standing debates in anthropology about the meaning of community, considering the relevance of these to current policy agendas of localism and “Big Society.” The article opens with an account of apparently strong community resistance to changes induced from outside. Drawing on long-term ethnographic research, it goes on to argue that the ways in which people relate to this community are complex. The extent to which individuals engage in more or less formalized group activity and how this intersects with class, education, and mobility are important aspects of this complexity. The article finds that as some groups become more professionalized, processes of exclusion are consolidated: those who become most able to effect change ironically become distanced from the community they seek to represent.