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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, March 03, 2009
    Priests and putting people in their place
    In the Runnymede Trust's excellent report, Who Cares About the White Working Class? Beverley Skeggs' research amongst a group of white working-class women demonstrates 'the numerous ways in which they were constantly subject to negative value judgements about their futures and pasts, behaviour, intelligence, taste, bodies and sexuality, to such an extent that it shaped their spatial sense of entitlement, engagement and limit: where they did or did not want to go, how they felt they could or could not 'be''.
    ‘Being looked down on’ was their description of a process to which they were continually subject, a visual assessment by others that repeatedly positioned them as lacking value. For instance, when they entered ‘posh shops’ they were acutely aware of the way they were being read and judged by others: 

    We’d all gone up to Manchester the other Saturday, you know for a day out, the three of us …We were in Kendals during the day, you know where the really posh food is, and we were laughing about all the chocolates and how many we could eat - if we could afford them and this woman she just looked at us. If looks could kill. Like we were only standing there. We weren’t doing anything wrong. We weren’t scruffy or anything. She just looked. It was like it was her place and we didn’t belong there. And you know what? We just all walked away. We should have punched her in the face. We didn’t say anything until about half an hour later. Can you imagine? Well and truly put in our place ... It’s things like that that put you off going. You feel better staying around here. (Wendy, 1986)
    'Respectability became the trope by which class relations came into view', writes Skeggs. And then this:
    Spinoza’s 16th century theory of affect, what he terms ‘the force of existing’ is a useful way to think about how we live with class relations with others in a continuous variation of valuation. Spinoza maintains that when we come across somebody good, if they make us joyful, they increase our capacity/ability to act, whereas if we meet sadness inhibition increases and decreases our capacity to act. Spinoza was concerned to understand how people with power use sadness to affect us to increase their power and decrease the power of others (he studied priests).
    Oh, blimey... best read on...

    Download Who Cares About the White Working Class? [pdf]