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Disrupting the Invisibility of Working-Class Girls

Redemption, Value, and the Politics of Recognition

Stephanie Skourtes

At a time when individualized narratives have replaced structural explanations like social class to account for inequality, girls who are on the urban fringe are not only made invisible but are under-valued as contributing members to a future, individually oriented society. This article offers a visual disruption in order to re-value the stigmatized, working-class girl by applying the concept of use-value to identify the girls' redemption narratives as an agentic process that is expressed affectively. Drawing from an ethnography of urban, working-class girls who utilize social services, this article reveals how class as culture operated along with other classification systems to inscribe the girls as a problem. Recognizing this, each girl had a redemption tale to tell so as to recover a sense of self; the self-narratives revealed alternative value systems that provided collective and practical value to them.

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Pauline Gardiner Barber

This article addresses the politics of class, culture, and complicity associated with Philippine gendered-labor export. Several examples drawn from multisited ethnographic research explore two faces of class: migrant performances of subordination contrasted with militancy in the labor diaspora. With few exceptions, the literature on Philippine women in domestic service has emphasized disciplined subjectivities, the everyday dialectics of subordination. But class is also represented in these same relationships, understandings, and actions. Alternatively, the political expressions of Philippine overseas workers, and their supporters, is a feature of Philippine migration that is not often mentioned in writing concerned with migrant inequalities. This article proposes a reconciliation of these two faces of class expression by exploring how new media, primarily cell-phone technologies, enhance possibilities for organized and personal resistance by Filipino migrants, even as they facilitate migrant acquiescence, linked here to gendered subordination and class complicity, in the contentious reproduction of the migrant labor force.

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Marek Mikuš

This article reconsiders established anthropological knowledge about postsocialist “civil society” through an analysis of recent efforts of Serbian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to reduce their dependence on foreign donors and develop “local fund-raising” from individuals and businesses. These initiatives had to address widespread suspicion toward NGOs, which confirms earlier findings about their donor-driven origins and the class divide between them and the surrounding society. Nevertheless, the article shows that the fund-raising activists strove to overcome suspicion and indigenize civil society. While anthropologists tend to portray NGO workers as a transnationalized elite, they are more adequately described as a middle-class faction currently subject to a process of precarization. The article also shows how the NGO workers' strategies to overcome suspicion, drawing variously on the global models of rational philanthropy, populist modes of self-presentation, or pre-existing ties to new donors, obscured or reduced the relevance of the class divide.

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Penny McCall Howard

This article examines the "power and the pain of class relations" (Ortner 2006) through the experience of Scottish men working in the global shipping, offshore oil, and fishing industries: industries in which the nationality of workers has changed significantly since the 1980s. It combines recent anthropological literature on subjectivity and cosmopolitanism with a Marxist understanding of class as generated through differing relationships to production. The article describes how British seafarers have experienced the cosmopolitanization of their workplaces, as workers from Portugal, Eastern Europe, and the Philippines have been recruited by employers in order to reduce wages, working conditions, and trade union organization. Drawing on Therborn (1980), it concludes that the experiences gained through this process have led to the development of multiple and often contradictory subjectivities, which people draw on as they choose how to act in moments of crisis, and as they imagine possible futures.

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Jeanette Edwards

Local family historians in the north of England are not only intent on "finding" their ancestors but in adding "flesh" to the bones of genealogy. Many are as interested in the social life of their ancestors as they are in their family tree or pedigree and, through their research, they excavate particular social and classed histories which combine discourses of land, labor, love, and loss. As well as deepening a sense of the workings of class in England, their research renders class identity more contingent than other contemporary public and media-driven versions. This article argues that family history and genealogical research destabilizes readings of English class identities as fixed, bounded and inescapable by revealing the vagaries of fate and chance and by making explicit other relevant and overlapping social distinctions in the provenance of one's ancestors.

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“The Shadow Class”

Immigration and Class in Contemporary South Asian/American Fiction

Maryse Jayasuriya

This article explores the representation of non-elite immigrants from South Asia to the United States in the fiction of Kiran Desai and Ameena Hussein. The works of these two writers shift the conventional representation of South Asian immigration to the United States as a middle and upper class phenomenon to a representation of the ways that non-elite South Asian immigrant experiences connect with the experiences of immigrants from around the world whose mobility is limited and whose imagined version of their prospective host country is shaped by incomplete and even illusory information.

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A clash of histories

Encounters of migrant and non-migrant laborers in the Canadian automobile parts industry

Belinda Leach

This article considers the confrontations between immigrant and non-immigrant workers in the workplace and the implications of these confrontations for workplace unity and class formation. Contributing to scholarship at the intersection of history, class, and migration, the article argues that workers bring to work histories that are constructed as oppositional. The roots of these oppositions lie in shared but different histories of dispossession and migration, masked by dominant cultural and class narratives, which privilege non-immigrant histories that are class-based, masculinist, and nationalist, and subordinate those of immigrants. In the process, neo-liberal agendas are bolstered. Questions of how such processes take place are important for understanding class formation within societies with large immigrant populations.

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"Maintaining the Class"

Teachers in the New High Schools of the Banlieues

Frédéric Viguier

Over the past twenty years, a silent revolution brought 70 percent of a generation to the baccalauréat level (up from 33 percent in 1986), without ensuring students corresponding job opportunities. Sociologists have analyzed the impact of this educational democratization, which sought to solve the economic crisis by adapting the younger members of the French workforce to the new economy of services: it has paradoxically accentuated the stigmatization of youths from working-class and immigrant families who live in suburban housing projects. Therefore, high school teachers have had to deal with students' profound disillusionment with education. Moreover, teachers have been central to all of the recent political controversies in France regarding cultural difference. While there are books, pamphlets, and memoirs reflecting their experiences, there is no research exploring the discrepancy between high school teachers' expectations and those of their predecessors. This article explores this discrepancy and its contribution to the social and political construction of the "problème des banlieues."

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Revived nationalism versus European democracy

Class and "identity dilemmas" in contemporary Serbia

Theodora Vetta

Following the Belgrade riots after Kosovo's proclamation of independence in February 2008 and the rise of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party in elections since 2001, several analysts have portrayed Serbia as a highly divided and confused nation unable to choose between a European, urban, and cosmopolitan democrat identity and a patriarchal, peasant, and collectivists nationalist one. This article historicizes this widespread culture-talk by ethnographically grounding it in particular processes that constitute Serbia's trajectory toward free market economy and liberal democracy. The concept of class as an analytical tool appears accurate in trying to understand people's biographies and political choices. By deconstructing popular cultural stereotypes of Radikali, the article argues that nationalism provides a framework that resonates most with the material and symbolic needs of a wide range of population. In the absence of a strong institutionalized left, the political choices of "nationalism's supporters" are based more on rational choice than on identity quests and strategies of manipulation.

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Class Conflict in Ancient Mesopotamia

Between Knowledge of History and Historicising Knowledge

Reinhard Bernbeck

In this article I provide a critique of historiography in Near Eastern archaeology and argue that forms of narrating the past are by necessity always political in nature. Current writing styles have a bias towards the upper classes of the past. I use this insight to elaborate on new ways of writing that shift the focus to different subjects of history. As a case study, I analyse discourses about evidence from fourth millennium Mesopotamia. Finally, I point out some alternative ways to approach historiography by asking new questions about old topics.