Presentation on theme: "Where is social class in ethnolinguistic identity research? David Block Institute of Education, University of London"— Presentation transcript:
Where is social class in ethnolinguistic identity research? David Block Institute of Education, University of London
Claims of cultural identity (e.g. ethnolinguistic identity), intimate in their origins, are all too often co-opted by market forces, such that they become commodities and bargaining chips in social markets such as schools and other social networks. In addition, the emphasis on and celebration of diversity lead to an emphasis on and eventual reinforcement of how we are different. And the latter divides us across cultural lines which are deemed to be equal, although in different markets different cultures rise to trump all others. Meanwhile, what unifies human beings, the fact of being positioned in an increasingly economically stratified world, only attracts attention if it can be framed in terms of identity inscriptions such as ethnicity, race, gender and ethnolinguistic identity. In this paper, I will examine how what is generally termed social class (a perhaps infelicitous term in need of reworking) might be placed more centrally in discussions of ethnolinguistic identities and articulated with an ongoing interest in ethnicity, race and gender.
Claims of cultural identity (e.g. ethnolinguistic identity), intimate in their origins, are all too often co-opted by market forces, such that they become commodities and bargaining chips in social markets such as schools and other social networks.
First, what is ethnolinguistic identity? Ethnolinguistic identity emerges at the confluence of a sense of belonging to a language community (speakers of X) and a sense of belonging to an ethnic community (Blommaert, 2005: 214)
Commodification The commodification of language means a shift from a valuing of language for its basic communicative function and more emotive associations- national identity, cultural identity, the authentic spirit of a people and so on- to valuing it for what it means in the globalized, deregulated, hyper-competitive, post-industrial neoliberal age in which we live (Heller, 2003). In Marxist terms, it means a shift from language as use-value to language as exchange-value.
Much of the same can be said about how subjectivities related to race, ethnicity, gender and so on have moved from being embedded in day-to-day practices to being commodified via the media into objectified positionings which, among other things, can be opted into in a highly self-conscious manner, and even bought and sold. Examples abound as products of the Hollywood Foucaultian gaze. e.g. Penelope Cruz in Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona, as fiery Mediterranean woman, code-switching between Spanish and English.
The emphasis on and celebration of diversity lead to an emphasis on and eventual reinforcement of how we are different. And the latter divides us across cultural lines which are deemed to be equal, although in different markets different cultures rise to trump all others.
A recalled quote from a teacher in a London school talking about the celebration of multiculturalism and diversity … Sometimes I feel sorry for the white kids in my class. They dont have any culture or heritage to celebrate. They didn't speak any languages. They dont look diverse. They are pale among kids with colour in their skin …
Meanwhile, what unifies human beings, the fact of being positioned in an increasingly economically stratified world, only attracts attention if it can be framed in terms of identity inscriptions such as ethnicity, race, gender and ethnolinguistic identity.
Examples abound in day-to-day discussions of issues and problems in society. And examples abound in books on bilingualism, ranging from Cummins (2000) to Blackledge & Creese (2010), where social class is mentioned on occasion but never really defined, engaged with or problematised in any depth.
Is ignoring white working-class cultural identity making them underachievers? By: Adi Bloom (The TES on 5 February, 2010) The Government should ensure that the school curriculum highlights white British identity alongside other ethnic and religious traditions, a leading race relations adviser has said. Feyisa Demie, head of research at London's Lambeth Council, also wants to see the Government implement a statutory annual census of pupils' social-class backgrounds, including data on their parents' occupations. "The Government needs to recognise that the underachievement of white British working-class pupils is not only a problem facing educational services, but a daunting and profoundly serious challenge," he said. Pupils from advantaged, professional backgrounds are three times more likely to achieve five A*-C grades at GCSE than their classmates from working-class homes. And although the grades of both sets of pupils have improved over the past decade, the gap between them widens every year. …
A question of Distinction? While the construction of major aspects of human identity- sexuality, race, ethnicity, gender – may have more striking consequences, minor identities like culinary preferences and sophistication contribute significantly to our sense of ourselves … It has not always been the case in America that an appreciation of haute cuisine was marker of intellectual and aesthetic achievement, but that is the case in many social milieu today; and consequently, being able to participate knowledgeably and volubly in the discourse of food, and knowing how to make sense of the menus and recipes one encounters, marks one as serious person in the e twenty-first century. (Lakoff, 2006: 165)
In this paper, I will examine how what is generally termed social class (a perhaps infelicitous term in need of reworking) might be placed more centrally in discussions of ethnolinguistic identities and articulated with an ongoing interest in ethnicity, race and gender.
What is social class? By class I understand a historical phenomenon, unifying a number of disparate and seemingly unconnected events, both in the raw material of experience and in consciousness. … I do not see class as a structure, nor even as a category, but as something which in fact happens (and can be shown to have happened) in human relationships. … And class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and generally opposed to) theirs. The class experience is largely determined by the productive relations into which men are born – or enter involuntarily. Class-consciousness is the way in which these experiences are handled in cultural terms; embodied in traditions, value systems, ideas, and institutional forms. If the experience appears as determined, class consciousness does not. (Thompson, 1980 : 8-9)
Bourdieu on class... social class, understood as a system of objective determinations, must be brought into relation not with the individual or with the class as a population, i.e. as an aggregate of enumerable, measurable biological individuals, but with class habitus, the system of dispositions (partially) common to all products of the same structures. Though it is impossible for all members of the same class (or even two of them) to have had the same experiences, in the same order, it is certain that each member of the same class is more likely than any member of another class to have been confronted with the situations most frequent for the members of that class. (Bourdieu, 1977: 85)
Marx and Engels on class (struggle) The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guildmaster and journeyman, in a word oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes. … The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of old ones. (Marx, K. & F. Engels, 2008 : 8-9)
Durkheim on class … Durkheim …. argued that class conflict in the early industrial period would ultimately dissipate because (a) the growth of the state occupational regulation should impose moral control on he conflict of it interests (i.e. the institutionalization of conflict), and (b) the rise of achievement-based mobility should legitimate inequalities of outcome by making them increasingly attributable to differential talent, capacities, and investments rather than differential opportunities (i.e. the rise of equal opportunity) (Grusky, 2005: 54)
Weber on class Class situation and class refer only to the same (or similar) interests which an individual shares with others. In principle, the various controls over consumer goods, means of production, assets, resources and skills each constitute a particular class situation. A uniform class situation prevails only when completely unskilled and propertyless persons are dependent on irregular employment. Mobility among, and stability of, class positions differs greatly; hence, the unity of a social class is highly variable. (Weber, 1968 : 302)
But also, Weber on status In contrast to the purely economically determined class situation, we wish to designate as status situation every typical component of the life of men that is determined by a specific, positive or negative, social estimation of honor. This honor may be connected with any quality shared by a plurality, and, of course, it can be knit to class situation: class distinctions are linked in the most varied ways with status distinctions. (Weber, 1968 : 932). … status groups are the specific bearers of al conventions. In whatever way it may be manifest, all stylization life either originates in status groups or is at least conserved by them. (Weber 1968: )
With some over-simplification, one might thus say that classes are stratified according to their relations to the production and acquisition of goods; whereas, status groups are stratified according to the principles of their consumption of goods as represented by special styles of life. (Weber, 1968: 937)
But much of this has been neglected in much recent sociolinguistics research The analytic utility and the cultural salience of social class appears to be diminishing, undermined by a wider range of factors; the social and economic changes associated with globalisation, the decline of traditional collectivist politics, the emergence of gender, race and ethnicity as political issues, and the ascendance of the individual as consumer. (Rampton, 2006; 216; drawing on Warde et al, 2000: 216)
Social class in early sociolinguistics William Labovs (1966) The Social Stratification of English in New York. Basil Bernsteins (1971) Class, Codes and Control, vol 1. Peter Trudgills (1974) The Social Differentiation of English in Norwich.
(1) Occupation(2) Fathers occupation a.Professional workers b.Employers, managers c.Other non-manual workers d.Foremen, skilled, self-employed e.Semi-skilled, agricultural f.Unskilled a.Professional workers b.Employers, managers c.Other non-manual workers d.Foremen, skilled, self-employed e.Semi-skilled, agricultural f.Unskilled (3) Education(4) Income a.Some university, college b.A-level or equivalent c.O-level, CSE, or equivalent d.Terminal age 15 or over e.Terminal age 14 f.Terminal age 13 or under Annual over £2000 £ Annual under £999/weekly over £20 Weekly over £15-19 Weekly over Weekly under £ (5) Locality(6) Housing By rent arrangement: council rented, privately rented, owner occupied By age: pre 1914, pre-1939, post-war By type: terrace, flat, semi-detached, detached e.g. owner occupied, post-war, detached = 5 council rented, pre-1914, flat = 0 Eaton (excluding council estates) Thorpe South Lackenham, Eaton council Central Lackenham Hellesdon Westwick
Problems with Trudgills six-component model of social class (Chambers, 2009) First there was what to do with married women and widows, whom Trudgill assigned husbands occupations. Then there were working women, who were assigned their husbands occupations except when they earned more money than their husbands. Students were assigned their fathers occupations. As regards education, students who were over 15 and had not taken O-level or A-level exams were assigned a 3. The entire section on housing, divided two dimensionally by house type and age of dwelling, was based on certain assumptions that Trudgill would have made about housing in Norwich at the time. It entailed fairly obvious problems when type and age of house were not as significant as might have been assumed.
Issues arising in social class research (Block, in preparation) 1. Measurement-oriented research around categories such as occupation, education, income, neighbourhood- the idea of the aggregate class positions- is of debatable use if done exclusively. 2. Should there be a strong, direct Marxist base to research? Or is capitalism more about larger economic cycles and the accumulation of capital than social class (Harvey, 2005)? 3. Has occupational stratification changed? – Reichs (1991) symbols analysts, routine production workers and in-person service workers. – What to do with outcasts (Wacquant, 2008)
4. How to frame the working class: between romanticising (Hoggart, 1956; Williams, 1958) and vilifying (Skeggs, 2004) 5. The middle class: a distinct class or the default norm? Where is class consciousness in self positioning(e.g. When you ask people)? 6. Individualisation (Beck, 2006), aspiration and the classless society: a more appropriate frame? 7. The increased and more complexified genderization, racialization and ethnization of occupational strata around the world 8. Changing consumption patterns, e.g. Peterson & Kerns (1996) cultural omnivorism (see Bennet et al, 2009 for update of Bourdieus Distinction in the UK context)
9. Changing relations of workers vis-à-vis organisations: looking sideways to compete as part of an individualised project of self and not above or below, an approach linked to an affiliation to organisations for a longer period of time (Savage, 2000). Horizontal adversariality over vertical adversariality. 10. Class as performative effect (Butler, 1990), emergent in discursive practices or class as antecedent to and shaping of participation in activity? 11. A distinction to be made between: – material conditions, ordinary experience, and everyday discourses, activities and practices – the primary realities of practical activity which are experienced differently by different people in different times, places and networks; and – secondary or meta-level representations: ideologies, images, and discourses about social groups, about the relations of power between them, and about their different experiences of material conditions and practical activity. (Rampton, 2006: )
12. Changing orientations to big categories (e.g. globalization) in times of neoliberal crisis and changing views of identity and, in particular, social class (Block, Gray & Holborow, in preparation) 13. The globalization of social class and the social classing of globalization: the globalization of emergent, originally localised, social class inflected phenomena (cultural omnivorism; hyper- masculinity); seeing globalized phenomena (e.g. (gaming communities ) as classed phenomena. 14. The need to resist American academic imperialism and the unwarranted transfer and translation of social models and frames across diverse contexts.
How to fit this into research on ethnolinguistic identity Rampton (2006, 2010) draws on the ideas of Bernstein, Heath and Gumperz to focus on: 1.historical process 2.institutions and networks 3.situated activity and practices 4.individuals and their repertoires Rampton documents how social class is done among adolescents in a secondary school in London.
Ethnolinguistic identity and social class? its what happened lately to someone who had an 11- month mobile contract / so he called/ I dont know what they told him because he cant speak English very well/ of course because these people are thieves / they are thieves in this company / theyre bad / and I told him that these companies are companies / companies have rules / they dont care about you / for you as an individual its this much / but in general / what do I know / whatever (.5) but theyre not going to rob you because you dont speak English / because you are Latino / or the person answering the phone is a thief because (s)hes going to keep the money/ its not that way because its a computer / its a system / its the system thats like that (.5) I phone and I tell them what happened / so theyre going to give him back 83 pounds / (Enrique, 3/11/04; translation by DB)