11th luglio 2011
From ‘toffs’ and ‘chavs’ - University of Chester hosts a two-day conference 'Spectres of Class: Representing Social Class from the French Revolution to the Present'
In an age where racist, ageist and sexist language is unacceptable why isn’t it considered classist to describe huge groups of people as ‘chavs’ and ‘scallies’, ‘scumbags’ or ‘scroungers’?
This is one of the many questions that will be asked during a two-day conference at the University of Chester next weekend, which will look at the ways class has been represented in language, literature and other cultural forms since the French Revolution.
From ‘toffs’ and ‘chavs’, to the have-nots and haves, ‘Spectres of Class: Representing Social Class from the French Revolution to the Present’ will give attendees the chance to explore the relationships between social class, identity and popular culture.
Experts from countries as varied as New Zealand, Iran, Nigeria, Brazil and Greece will join academic staff and postgraduate students from the Department of English to discuss a range of subjects – from class and conflict in the news to the lyrics of The Smiths.
The event has been organised by Dr Matt Davies, Programme Leader for English Language, and is taking place as the BBC conducts its ‘Great British Class Survey’.
Dr Davies said: “We are a nation obsessed with class. The terms ‘working class’ and ‘middle class’ are used routinely, and we take great pains to categorise ourselves and others into one category or another.
“Curiously, although the terms racist, sexist and ageist are now very much common parlance, it is rare to hear anybody being accused of being classist, even though some of the most bigoted language can be used by some of the media to denigrate people because of their social class status. It still seems to be quite acceptable for to dismiss huge swathes of people as chavs, scallies, scumbags, scroungers.
“Social class inequalities have always been with us, but since the recent banking crisis and the resulting global recession, there is a renewed academic and public interest in the nature and significance of class and so this conference is particularly topical. Yet there is a denial in some quarters about the economic foundations of the relationship between class and identity.
“Social class and class divisions remain central forces in shaping the way we live. According to the 2010 National Equality Panel Report the top 1% of the UK population, such as bankers and chief executives, each possess on average total annual household wealth of £2.6m compared to the wealth of the poorest 10%, which is below £8,800 or below, including cars and other possessions.”
He added: “The conference is very timely. As the consequences of global recession deepen, the cuts imposed by governments in the West are exacerbating social inequalities. Protests and industrial disputes in countries such as Greece, Spain, and in recent weeks the UK, are some of the many manifestations of class inequalities.”
Staff and students from the University, alongside experts in Literary Studies, Linguistics, Sociology, Politics, Media Studies and History from a range of fields, will share their ideas on the material and cultural bases of social class.
Keynote speakers will include:
• Dr Colin Coulter, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the National University of Ireland, who will present ‘In the days when you were hopelessly poor, I just liked you more’: Spectres of class in the songs of The Smiths’
• Prof Paul Kerswill, Professor of Sociolinguistics at the Lancaster University, who will present ‘Language, identity and social class’
• Dr Ruth Livesey, Reader in 19th-Century Literature and Thought, Royal Holloway, University of London, who will present ‘Class, Mobility, and the Tory Nation: Passengers on the move in the 19th-Century’.
Topics to be discussed at the conference include:
• Class, consumerism and popular culture
• Representations of class in 19th and 20th-Century literary fiction
• Class and conflict in the news media
• Performing class in poetry, song, fashion and the visual arts
• Perspectives on class in the Middle East
• Dialect, identity and social class
• Gender and class
• Class stereotyping
• Shifting class boundaries.
Visitors who are not delivering papers are welcome to the attend the conference, which has been organised by the Department of English’s Dr Davies and Professor Deborah Wynne in association with Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines (CADAAD).
‘Spectres of Class’ takes place on Friday, July 15 and Saturday July 16 in Beswick Lecture Theatre on the Main Campus.
Members of the public are welcome to attend but must register. To register visit chester.ac.uk/departments/english/conf or contact Dr Matt Davies at email@example.com for more information.