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Negotiating with multiculture

This chapter focuses explicitly on parents’ discussions of ethnic diversity. These are put in the context of policies around multiculturalism and integration in which schools have been a key policy site. Parents were more likely to consider diversity as something related to race or ethnicity rather than class. The chapter contends that we lack a differentiated vocabulary for discussing diversity and ‘mix’. Furthermore, there are distinct discourses around ethnic diversity circulating in the different areas, with parents in the area with the least ethnic diversity, in particular, expressing reservations and fears about increasing diversity. Parents of BME children have a particular stake in seeking out schools with an ethnic mix as they see those schools as potentially offering their children security against the racism and racialised othering which they might face in more white schools (and which the parents themselves may have experienced in their own schooling in Britain). Thus the book argues that it is critical that we consider questions of both class and race when understanding parents’ views about school choice, but that we should also be attentive to ways in which ideas and imaginations of place frame parents approaches to schooling and education.

in All in the mix
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Chapter 2 sets the scene of the three different areas in Greater Manchester of the study. It describes the areas which have distinct demographic makeup and also different profiles in terms of reputation and, as we explore, residential mobility. It also describes the methodology of the study. One of the distinctive features of this book on school choice is the located nature of the study. Interviewees talk about places and schools which we have reliable knowledge of, including the demographic makeup of the schools. This enables us to understand how those places are imagined and lived in and how the schools are understood in the broader ‘tactics’ (De Certeau 1984) of living in places. The chapter shows that, when parents talked about the areas in which they lived, issues of race and class were dealt with quite differently in the three areas, suggesting different discourses that circulated about these social categories in the contrasting locations. The chapter also shows the varied ways in which ‘elective belonging’ (Savage et al. 2005) can work.

in All in the mix
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This chapter introduces the book, exploring how the process of school choice enables the examination of how parents imagine themselves, their children and others in relational space and involves navigating ideas of social differences, particularly those which are raced and classed. It also examines how school choice is an emotional process and traces understandings of affect in relationship to race and class. It also examines the role of the state education system in producing inequalities.

in All in the mix
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This chapter explores some of the emotions stirred up in the process of choosing schools. It examines how much of parents’ talk in these areas about school choice, and in particular what they are most worried about, is structured by ideas of class and also race, even when these are not mentioned directly. It argues that undesirable schools are often characterised by their pupils in ways which suggest processes of othering. The school is assessed in part through the ways in which the children dress and behave – or sometimes how the parents behave. Thus the chapter explores how judgements made about schools are gendered, raced and classed. In these accounts, class is particularly prominent in shaping parents’ fears.

in All in the mix
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This chapter charts the rise of notions of consumer choice in the field of state education and its relationship to the changing structures of school provision. It considers how a shift towards the ‘choosing parent’ can maintain inequalities of race and class. It also addresses gaps in Bourdieusian approaches to education, particularly focusing on how racialised processes have frequently been sidelined in this literature. In considering the literature on school choice, this chapter also points to gaps in the literature, which has historically largely focused on white middle-class parents and children. Finally, it explores the importance of understanding schools as located in particular places – enabling an exploration of spatial processes of school choice. It will examine how ideas such as territorialisation and stigmatisation of space can interact with processes of school choice.

in All in the mix
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Workplace activism, labour militancy and cultural change in Britain’s car factories, 1945–82

Car workers’ union activism has long held a strong grip on popular memories of the post-war period. Working in the quintessential industry of modernity, their labour militancy has been linked to narratives of economic decline and of rising working-class living standards.

Yet despite their centrality to understanding of this period, car workers’ capacity for collective action has often been taken for granted, with mobilisation attributed to uncomplicated economic motivations or the last gasps of a declining ‘traditional class consciousness’ and the effects of the post-war settlement.

This book looks at the changing forms of agency and subjectivity expressed by labour militancy, considering workplace activism in the motor industry as a specific historical creation of post-war Britain rather than a reflection of ‘tradition’. It traces the origins of shop-floor organisations, which first emerged in the 1950s, studying the processes by which workers built their union cultures and exploring the capacity of car workers to generate new solidarities and collective values in this period.

Focus then turns to the 1960s and 1970s and the social practices and cultural norms that resulted from this cultural assembling, looking to understand how worker activism shaped the agency of car workers in post-war Britain, influencing the forms that strike action took. Through a mixture of oral history interviews, letters, meeting minutes and periodicals, this book analyses the meanings workers attributed to industrial conflict, asking whether factory activism generated attitudes distinct from the dominant values of wider British society.

This chapter looks at the development of public discourse around trade-union militancy and car workers between the 1940s and the 1970s. This chapter argues that car factory activists confronted an ever-rising level of hostility from various sectors of public discourse over this period.

Commentary on workplace activism in the motor industry was structured by reformist narratives about ‘unofficial strikes’, ‘closed shops’ and ‘restricted practices’ up to the 1970s, when more alarmist ideas about ‘decline’ and ‘industrial chaos’ became more dominant.

Rising hostility to car workers’ behaviour was the context in which they built their trade-union organisations.

in Assembling cultures
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The conclusion will draw together the strands developed during the rest of the book. It will assert that historians of post-war Britain should pay closer attention to developments within the workplace and try to see events there as reflective of their own particular social and cultural logics rather than simply mirrors to wider changes in political culture. It will call for more acknowledgement of how what workers did within factories changed British life both at work and beyond. Rather than pathologising industrial relations in this period, we should instead look to understand workplace activism as something that represented a real attempt to assert agency within British life and, consequently, as something that shaped attitudes and behaviours.

in Assembling cultures

After two decades of time-consuming activism, by the mid-1960s, a new system of industrial relations had taken shape in the British motor industry.

This chapter shows how that system operated, documenting the high levels of workgroup autonomy that produced the industry’s patterns of small wildcat strikes. I show how organising around shop meetings of a small size allowed workplace trade unionism to offer agency to union members, but only within quite strict limits.

The possibilities and constraints of this method of organising in turn shaped the rationalities employed by workers.

in Assembling cultures
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The introduction explores the importance of car workers in popular memories of post-war Britain, particularly their status as disruptive militants in narratives of decline.

It calls into question the superficial treatment that car workers’ union activism has been given in the existing historiography, making a case for a social and cultural history of the industry that restores the agency and subjectivity of its workforce.

Drawing on Bourdieu and Godelier, the Introduction proposes to analyse the social practices and cultural norms that structured workplace activism as a way of understanding the possibilities and limits that shaped workers’ lives.

in Assembling cultures