Identities, repertoires, cultural consumption

This book analyses how racism and anti-racism influence Black British middle-class cultural consumption. In doing so, this book challenges the dominant understanding of British middle-class identity and culture as being ‘beyond race’.

Paying attention to the relationship between cultural capital and cultural repertoires, this book puts forward the idea that there are three black middle-class identity modes: strategic assimilation, class-minded, and ethnoracial autonomous. People towards each of these identity modes use specific cultural repertoires to organise their cultural consumption. Those towards strategic assimilation draw on repertoires of code-switching and cultural equity, consuming traditional middle-class culture to maintain an equality with the White middle class in levels of cultural capital. Ethnoracial autonomous individuals draw on repertoires of browning and Afro-centrism, removing themselves from traditional middle-class cultural pursuits they decode as ‘Eurocentric’, while showing a preference for cultural forms that uplift Black diasporic histories and cultures. Lastly, those towards the class-minded identity mode draw on repertoires of post-racialism and de-racialisation. Such individuals polarise between ‘Black’ and middle-class cultural forms, display an unequivocal preference for the latter, and lambast other Black people who avoid middle-class culture as being culturally myopic or culturally uncultivated.

This book will appeal to sociology students, researchers, and academics working on race and class, critical race theory, and cultural sociology, among other social science disciplines.

2 Towards a triangle of Black middle-class identity S ociologists are often committed to the view that identity is ‘restless, fickle and irresolute’.1 Contrastingly, the very reason that ‘race’ (and particularly ‘Blackness’) was brought into existence was to deny human difference to certain people. 2 As critical social scientists, therefore, we must walk a tightrope between appreciating that individuals are individuals while also appreciating that systems of domination often aim to homogenise people into restrictive categories. One way that sociologists

in Black middle class Britannia
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4 Middle-class medicine It is well known that Englishmen are in the main opposed to any and every new system with which they are not familiar. Probably to this influence is due the fact, that, with a few exceptions, pay wards are as unknown in this country as the pay hospitals themselves. 1 Sir Henry Burdett

in Payment and philanthropy in British healthcare, 1918–48
Political apathy and the poetry of Derek Mahon

2 ‘Middle-­class shits’: political apathy and the poetry of Derek Mahon ‘Wonders are many and none is more wonderful than man’ Who has tamed the terrier, trimmed the hedge And grasped the principle of the watering can. Clothes pegs litter the window ledge And the long ships lie in clover; washing lines Shake out white linen over the chalk thanes. Now we are safe from monsters, and the giants Who tore up sods twelve miles by six And hurled them out to sea to become islands Can worry us no more. The sticks And stones that once broke bones will not now harm A

in Northern Ireland and the politics of boredom
Crafting a study on Britain’s Black middle class

1 Introduction – Taking off the colourblind goggles: crafting a study on Britain’s Black middle class I n the summer of 2017, I was involved in a back-and-forth email conversation with someone whom I had been trying to interview for seven months. I received an email late at night, inviting me to an event run by the Powerlist Foundation, a foundation composed of the most ‘powerful’ Black Britons. It read Hi Ali, I have been really poor with communication and I am so sorry. We begin our Annual Summer Leadership Programme, in partnership with BT, tomorrow and I

in Black middle class Britannia

6 Race, class, and culture in the British racialised social system O ne text I often turn to in my sociological writing is Becker’s Tricks of the Trade.1 As Becker claims, one question that sociologists must continually ask themselves is simply ‘So what?’2 I use this chapter to address this ‘so what?’ question – or as Du Bois puts it, ‘the meaning of all this’ question 3 – looking both backwards and forwards. I look backwards by reviewing how the data presented in this book makes contributions towards the micro field of Black middle-class studies, as well as to

in Black middle class Britannia
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Consuming traditional middle-class culture

3 White spaces: consuming traditional middle-class culture I t was February 2017, and I was in Somerset House, a famous art gallery, for a photography exhibition entitled The Eye of Modern Mali. I recounted the following experience in my fieldwork journal, while the memory was still fresh in my mind: I enter the South Wing, take a moment to orient myself and walk toward Sibidé’s photography exhibition The Eye of Modern Mali. I decide I’d like to go to the bathroom first, so walk towards it, clearly signposted, placed right next to the café. Then I have my first

in Black middle class Britannia
Double consciousness, Black Britishness, and cultural consumption

, I was moving through a space that was rich with Black British culture and history. Indeed, the theme of space has been running through this book so far. I considered how the symbolic boundaries of middle classness often lead to the construction of white middle-class physical spaces, also showing how members of the Black middle class create their own physical cultural spaces as a means of solidarity and resistance. In this respect, my work implicitly connects with the longstanding interest social theorists have had in space and place. Looking back at this

in Black middle class Britannia

into Blackness and middle-class culture, and we carried on talking. Sandra commented that ‘This happens all the time’, where ‘a white person wants to take away from the achievements of Black people’. Sandra further explained that the questioning lady was overplaying the role of white people in anti-racist Black 77 Black middle-class Britannia struggle, whereas exhibitions like this are supposed to provide more accurate ‘representations of Black struggle and progress’. This ethnographic episode feeds into two dimensions explored in this chapter. First, Sandra claims

in Black middle class Britannia

socialism. This chapter will examine the role of music in the reform culture of middle-class liberals such as Haweis and John Pyke Hullah. 5 Common to the two organisations examined here in detail, London’s South Place Chapel and Melbourne’s Australian Church, was both an eschewal of orthodoxy, dogma and creed replaced by openness and inclusiveness in outlook, and a vibrant musical culture. Thus we look at

in Sounds of liberty