Geographies of Discontent: the role of the “global countryside” in the formation of subjectivities.
The urban rural divide has typically been overlooked as a vital component of the spatial organisation of income and class. Work on “global cities” has traditionally been at the centre of human geography’s attempts to understand processes of global capital as relational and context dependent (Yeoh, 1999; Knox, 2002; Marcuse and van Kempen, 2000; Robinson, 2002).
Urban areas have provided the dominant field for researching classed subjectivities, resulting in a paucity of modern empirical data about class in rural communities (Shucksmith 2012, Newby 2008, Skeggs and Loveday 2012). Hillyard (2015) states that communities outside of key cities must be understood since the financial recession has been felt in serious and specific ways in these areas. Research into class in rural locations could thus be seen as key to responding to problems in understanding the relationship between place and inequality (Hillyard, 2015).
These rural and peri-urban areas outside of core cities are imagined by Woods (2007) as the “Global Countryside”. This term refers to a hypothetical space made up of multiple, shifting, tangled and dynamic networks which connect rural to rural and rural to urban with greater intensities of globalisation processes in some rural localities than in others and thus with differential distributions of power, opportunity and wealth across rural space (ibid).
Issues around rural and peri-urban areas are currently demanding attention following the emergent political and social climate highlighted by Brexit, and the election of President Trump in the USA in 2016. Research has shown that supporters of Britain leaving the European Union as well as Trump voters were more likely to live outside core city areas (Noack, 2016). Further to this, less densely populated areas in France and Germany have also been shown to disproportionately support right-wing and nationalist policies and report high levels of frustration and dissatisfaction (ibid). Los et al (2017) in their paper on Brexit referred to these swathes of territory estranged from the productive centres of the global economy as “Geographies of Discontent”.
The blue collar communities present in these rural “hinterlands” are often seen as either dangerous enclaves of political conservatives, or worse, as easy prey for neo-nationalist movements (Satybaldieva, 2017). By engaging with a grounded and micro-focused portrait of class and work in the UK’s “global countryside” in relationship with overarching systemic issues, this project aims to contribute to a better understanding of how people actively shape their own lives in association with regulatory frameworks.
This project aims to understand;
- Subjectivity in the “global countryside”
- The regulatory mechanisms which produce subjectivity in the “global countryside”.
The two strands here are important because many studies of the working classes focus either on top down or bottom up data neglecting the way in which the two “intra-act”.
Conventional understandings of interaction assume there are individual agents that pre-exist their acting upon one another. In contrast to this Barad’s (2007) term “intra-action” queers this familiar understanding of causality and unsettles the metaphysics of individualism. Here individuals and phenomena are understood to exist only within relationship. Matter here is not boundless however, rather, intra-actions create material and social boundaries which are defined by relational properties, such as those between voters and policy as well as those between workers, employers, and labor markets.
In order to elucidate the aims of the project this section will clarify the use of the term “subjectivity”.
Here we see power not just as an external action which presses on the subject from outside. Power also forms the subject as well as providing the conditions of existence and the trajectory of desires (Althusser 1971, Foucault 1982; Butler, 1997; Lacan 1977). Under this framework we see subjectivity as occurring through a “dual process” (Butler, 1997, 2000) or an “intra-action” between overarching regulatory systems such as policy and economy which dictate behaviour and more intimate systems such as the family, education, and the media which shape thoughts and desires.
Without submitting to both the top down and bottom up demands about how to conduct one’s body, behaviour and affect the individual is not constituted socially and thus not granted subjectivity. Under these conditions power can be viewed not simply as that which we oppose but also that which we depend on for our existence. The force that shapes our most intimate desires and mundane actions.
Althusser (1977) states that love is central to the process of the formation of the subject as it manifests in what Butler (1997:129) refers to as “a passionate pursuit of the reprimanding recognition of the state”. This notion links to Nietzsche (2008) and to some extent Freud (1917) in stating that there is something fundamental in human nature that would prefer to be enslaved or loved in torture than not to be at all in the eyes of the other. To Lacan (1977) this subjectivity or the sensation of having a distinct individual self is tantamount to a “misrecognition” as the very origins of subjectivity are formed through the introjection of others (both intimate and institutional) ideas and desires.
Thus the ego or subjectivity to Lacan (1977) is an “eximate”’; an intimate exterior and interior externality. This research uses the term subjectivites to refer to these eximates or, in Foucault’s (2002) terms “reality ontologies”, constructed by power which shape and guide the way that people in different physical and psychical locations conduct themselves.
Subjectivity can be understood, using Marxist theory, as part of economic infrastructure (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). The production of subjectivity here is viewed as the primary and most important form of production, rather like an alternative gold standard, subjectivity is here, a “commodity par excellence”, a commodity that goes into all other commodities. Here money is understood as the expression of an asymmetry of forces, providing the power to prescribe and impose modes of future domination through the construction of new subjectivities and affects (Lazzarato 2009, 2014; Konings, 2015).
Subjectivity in this work can be seen as a method of understanding individual agency in intra-action with the power and control of regulatory mechanisms, and to understand this agency as a material, bodily phenomena that works in relationship with space and scale as well as a social and psychic occurrence.
This project focuses on three case studies in and between the towns of Boston and Spalding in Lincolnshire, and Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. As seen in Figure 1 this area stretches around the area of coast known as “The Wash”.
Figure 1- Research Area. (English Nature, 2004)
These towns exhibit a specific kind of semi-rural poverty characterized by limited access to key services, poor transport links, educational, and occupational opportunities and a prevalence of “low skill-low pay” factory and agricultural work. As seen in figures 2 and 3 there is a marked lack of working age adults with qualifications at level four and over (ONS, 2011).
Figure 3- Adults with qualifications at level 4 and over (ONS, 2011)
Figure 2- Adults with no formal qualifications. (ONS, 2011)
These towns have some of the highest proportions of A8 migrants and least “integration” in the country (Gallagher, 2016). As seen in figures 4 and 5 during the period 2004-2011 Boston, Lincs experienced double the national increase in population at 15.9% as compared to 7.9% for England as a whole (ONS 2011). This means that the case study area represents the largest spatial area in the UK that experienced a population increase over 15% in the years 2001-2011.
Figure 4 (BBC, 2007)
Figure 5 (Guardian, 2011)
These towns were also home to three of the highest UKIP and “leave” vote wards in the European Union referendum of June 2016 (75.6,% in Boston, 73.6% in Spalding and 71.4% in Wisbech (Electoral Commission, 2016).
This research hypothesizes that these combined factors are indicative of a “geography of discontent” (Los et al, 2017) in the area around The Wash.
Brexit and Neoliberalism.
The referendum of June 2016 which offered the public the chance to decide whether or not Britain would remain a member of the European Union, was according to Jessop (2017), a double bind; a remain vote threatened to consolidate Britain’s place within the EU’s neoliberal agenda and it’s commitment to austerity, while a leave vote risked compromising the UK’s place within the global market place risking further austerity in the name of economic stabilization (ibid). Jessop see the concerns regarding Britain’s membership of the European Union as rooted in it’s commitment to neoliberal ideology, stating that a real choice would have been in or out of neoliberalism rather than in or out of the European Union.
Neoliberalism is one of those indistinct terms that is often used to refer to a variety of regulatory mechanisms associated with late capitalism. The expression is synonomous with the kinds of economic reforms that Thatcher and Regan implemented in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s which privilege “interest-bearing capital and transnational profit-producing capital over other fractions of capital and the interests of subaltern classes, marginal communities, and oppressed social categories” (ibid:315). These policies proliferated de-industrialisation, meaning that Britain’s economic fortunes came to depend heavily on finance-dominated accumulation, the wider world market and a low-skill, low-tech, low-wage, zero-hour service sector (ibid).
It is, however, important to remember that neoliberalism as a construct originated from Hayek’s (1944) Road to Serfdom which criticized post WWII reforms such as Bevan’s NHS and the US New Deal. These Keynesian reforms were seen by Hayek as occupying the same political space as Nazism and Communism. This notion of state intervention as dangerous, and capable of crushing individuality and instigating totalitarian rule helps to place neoliberalism in context.
Austerity is a key component of the neoliberal agenda. As a strategy austerity can be understood as a form of voluntary deflation through the cutting of wages, prices and public spending by the state, in an attempt to lighten the load and make the state more competitive (Blyth, 2013, Jessop, 2016). This “light touch” to regulation has resulted in string of governments who have avoided the protection of worker rights, the provision of technical and vocational training to address labour shortages, overcome the housing crisis, fund the NHS and encourage research and development to protect knowledge based engineering (Jessop, 2017). These strategies privilege “interest bearing capital” over “productive capital” (ibid) and have resulted in a situation where the social basis of economic and political power in the UK has come to rest on the fragile foundations of popular capitalism, authoritarian populism and self-disciplinary entrepreneurial culture.
Neoliberal policies are often seen to orbit around the production of profit. There are, however, extensive indications that elements of neoliberal restructuring in particular its use of austerity are counter-productive in achieving economic stabilization (Blyth, 2013). All evidence from IMF since 2008 shows that the greater the austerity imposed in individual economies the worse their performance due to a lack of public spending (ibid). Blyth (2013) uses these figures to bolster his argument that these policies persist because they are rooted in ideological politics that are only maintained by a retreat away from democratic government and toward technocratic and exceptional states (cf Jabko, 2013; Thompson, 2013; Streeck, 2013).
Austerity policies take on new significance when we consider them in relation to power and subjectivities. If viewed as an ideological rather than economic driving force, austerity can be seen as more an operation of power than an financial exercise. Its aims here are to recover control over the conduct of the governed to both reduce the state intervention at the same time as bringing the behaviours of less regulated citizens into line with the self-governing logic of late capitalism (Lazzarato, 2009, see also Foucault, 1975). Under a political ideology that favours individualism and a pared back state the way populations are governed must come from inside the individual rather than from a state which dictates behaviour (Butler 1996, Foucault 2003).
This means that the effects of neoliberalism could be viewed through a more Weberian gaze where the achievement of freedom is not the ultimate yardstick to with which to evaluate social transformations (Illouz, 2007). This gaze urges an enquiry about the ways in which new norms of freedom have changed the relationships between people and shaped the emergences of new forms of subjectivity.
Labour and Space.
Despite its affection for freedom, neoliberal reform is not simply about deregulation or liberalization. It is, rather, a process of re-regulation and policy adjustment that promotes the interests of interest-bearing capital (Aalbers, 2013). The UK Conservative government have considerably increased employment regulation, including measures such as the national living wage and pension auto-enrollment (Shakleton, 2016).
Many of the changes that were put into effect in 2016 relate directly to the legislating of Gangmaster (local employer of low-skilled migrant workers) activity and direct employment through agencies from the European Economic area (ibid). This could be seen as indicative of a move not towards a deregulation of the labour market but towards a specifically regulated employment environment (ibid). This is “flexible neoliberalism” (Peck and Tickall, 2002) in action which is committed to the intensification of aggressively market-disciplinary forms of regulatory reorganization (Brenner et al 2010, Smith, 2008) rather than deregulation (Aalbers, 2012). UK labour practices can thus be used to understand the concept of neoliberalisation as a process rather than a condition (ibid).
The goal of this procedural neoliberalism is not a total withdrawal of the state but rather a qualitative restructuring of the state, which does not require less state intervention so much as a different kind of state intervention (Albers, 2013). These new regulatory policies are not aimed at the benefit of wider populations and ecological considerations but at the profit of a few (ibid, Jessop 2017), through measures which punish many (Peet, 2011).
These regulatory policies relate directly to urban-rural shifts of populations and flows of capital in post WWII England. Since the 1960’s British urban demographic trends have been characterized by a process of continuous swing between urbanization and counter-urbanization (or ‘urban-rural shift’) of jobs and people. This was initially instigated by deindustrialization and the changing geography of employment of the post-Fordist service economy in the 1960’s (Colomb, 2015; Champion, 1989; Atkins et al., 1996; Turok and Edge, 1999; Townsend, 1993). Until the early 1990s urban areas experienced a population decrease while areas outside of core cities experienced a steady growth in population (Atkins et al, 1996). This counter-urbanisation instigated a spatial socioeconomic polarization since it was mainly middle or upper income groups who were moving out of the cities (Colomb, 2015). This trend was intensified by the manufacturing sector crisis which led to deprivation and underemployment becoming spatially concentrated in industrial city centres (ibid).
Throughout the 1990’s satellite and sub-urban districts still grew faster than urban areas, but the scales did begin to even. “Metropolitan cities”, such as Manchester, began to see population increases again during this period in a process of “re-urbanisation” where urban population decrease across the country began to slow down (Atkins et al, 1996). For example, the urban cores of Manchester and Liverpool had 10,000 residents in 2005, as opposed to a few hundreds a decade before (Guy et al., 2005). This switch can be seen as directly related to the shift in the privileging of “interest bearing capital” in the service and knowledge economy such as banking, media, arts and entertainment over “productive capital” in manufacturing and agriculture and resulted in altered notions regarding desirable living situations (Colomb, 2015). Studies have shown that the attractiveness of inner city living is still growing, in particular among higher socioeconomic categories (ibid). Further to this, the productivist cast of agricultural policy in the UK since WWII has encouraged industrialization and specialization in national systems of agriculture. Previously diversified local and regional agricultural systems have become more standardized and concentrated, and in turn small-scale and medium scale food processing, distributing and retailing infrastructures became less viable (Shucksmith et al 2012).
In Feb 2017, The Times reported on the significant disparities between urban and rural funding, citing average locality spending per head at £263 in rural locations to £553 in inner London (Fisher, 2017). This coupled with an over representation of elderly residents in rural locations and an increase in council tax goes some way to explaining the difficult scale of differentiation between the inner cities and shire counties (ibid). This research asks how the uneven rollout of policies and regulatory frameworks across urban and rural spaces provoke “geographies of discontent” and what kinds of subjectivities emerge in working class populations in these areas?
On 1st of May 2004 eight countries (later joined in 2007 by Romania and Bulgaria) joined the European Union. The UK placed no restrictions on transnational movement or access to the labour market for this group. This was in contrast to most other EU countries, which, except Sweden and Ireland placed a variety of temporary restrictions on the full freedom of labour for the group that came to be known as “A8” or “A10” nationals (Vasey, 2016).
Between 2004 and 2011 over 1.1 million nationals registered to work in the UK; this figure was a great deal higher than had been predicted before the enlargement of the EU (ibid). Many new arrivals sought employment in localities that were not traditional receiving areas for international migrants (Pollard et al, 2008; Stenning and Dawley, 2009; Dawley 2009). For example the South West region received just 900 National Insurance number registrations from A8 nationals in the year prior to the EU enlargement but was receiving over 23,000 per annum by 2006/2007 (DWP, 2009).
At first sight, the settlement pattern of EU migration might not seem different from post-war migration to Britain. It is important, however, to understand that previous immigration, particularly from the New Commonwealth, was clearly characterised by populations clustering in declining and unpopular inner-city areas in the more prosperous South East and East and West Midlands (London, Birmingham and Leicester), as well as in West Yorkshire (Leeds/Bradford) and Lancashire (the Greater Manchester Area) (McCollum and Findlay, 2015). In contrast the A8 migration from 2004 onwards resulted in large scale migration into rural and peri-urban areas such as the area around The Wash. These sparsely populated semi-rural areas often have neither the infrastructure, population size nor the varied labour market that core cities have to hand to integrate large numbers of new arrivals. Rural areas in the UK are more often populated by low skilled workers whose occupational characteristics mirror those that the incoming population are encouraged to exhibit (Sabater, 2015; Vasay, 2016; HM Government, 2014).
Despite having an overall positive effect on the economy, the concentration of many new arrivals in the lowest pay bracket, performing predominantly low skill roles (McCollum, 2013; Vasey, 2016; Sporton, 2010) has meant the lowest paid, lowest skilled domestic British workers have felt negative effects in terms of competition for roles (McCollum and Findlay, 2015) and compromised recruitment and working conditions (ibid).
Whilst much research has supported the thesis that “studies estimating the impact of migrants on UK wages have generally found little or no impact on average wages” (Migration Advisory Committee, 2012) more local studies both economically and spatially have shown that immigration on the scale brought about by the A8 EU migration does have distributional impacts. These impacts appear to have a negative effect for the least skilled and lowest paid whilst creating a positive impact everywhere else along the chain, creating an illusion of an insignificant impact overall. For example, Dustmann et al (2010) found that A8 migration caused wages to fall for the lowest decile of wage distribution but rise for all other deciles. This is in keeping with economic theory which states that impacts on domestic labour market outcomes will be concentrated on those employees who are in competition with migrants (Vasey, 2016). Further to this Nathan (2011) found that there was a statistically significant impact on labour market outcomes leading to a reduction in domestic employment overall, due to the specifically high level of migration to the UK that occurred as a result of A8 EU migration. Further to this studies suggest that regardless of wider public finances and economic impact, increases in demand and cost at local level do not result in quick changes to funding allocations (George, 2011), which is significant when considering the strain large scale immigration places on communities where infrastructure is already minimal. However, despite places like Boston, Lincolnshire experiencing double the national increase in population between 2001 and 2011 there has been little research on the experiences of domestic populations in rural areas that have seen drastically increased populations through A8 migration ( Sabater, 2015; Halej, 2016).
There is an emergent body of research that challenges the dominant narrative that “low skill-low pay” employers use migrant labour due to a paucity of domestic labour willing to engage in poorly paid, insecure or undesirable work. This research suggests that migrant labour is viewed more favourably and thus employers choose to employ from this pool of labour (McCollum and Findlay, 2015). Migrants are often viewed as having a superior work ethic (Mackenzie and Forde, 2009) in contrast to “unappealing” domestic jobseekers (Lucas and Mansfield, 2010) leading to ethnically ordered hiring queues whereby employers devise an implicit hierarchy of nationalities according to their desirability as employees (Scott, 2012), not simply based upon domestic versus migrant labour but with higher value placed on certain nationalities of migrants (Matthews and Ruhs, 2007) with British low skill workers placed at the back of this queue and A8 workers channelled straight into low skill positions regardless of qualification levels (McCollum and Findlay, 2015). This creates a multi directional system of discrimination towards both domestic and A8 labour related to wider global processes and represents a potentially fundamental novel episode in labour migration processes in terms of the way that the sociology of work is understood and conceptualised by scholars (Ciupijus, 2011).
Critical whiteness in Britain’s global countryside
When considering the area around The Wash areas it is important to acknowledge the low levels of ethnic diversity. The three towns presented as between 96% and 98% white in the 2011 census (ONS, 2011). However, despite this there are still huge problems with discrimination and integration in the area. It is all too easy to equate “whiteness” with a homogenous way of life and as a result research regarding difference and otherness more often focuses on visible interracial relationships and divisions, neglecting the internal differentiation of whiteness. Therefore research on the deconstruction of “whiteness” in situations where racial phenotype is not the only marker of inclusion/exclusion can create new ways of understanding discrimination, prejudice and exploitation (Hickman and Walter, 1995).
An important mechanism in the creation of racialized discrimination is the systematic establishment of procedures for the regulation, constraint, and marking of poor whites as irretrievable and degenerate. We can understand this as a phenomenon of “biopower” (Foucault, 2003:240) where a governance system organizes the reproduction of life in ways that allow political events to render a conditional status for certain bodies. The ability to adhere to these conditions judges, zones and shames some bodies which are conceptualised as representative of “embodied liabilities to social prosperity” (Berlant 2007;765). The parable-esque media framing of rural bin-man Michael Carroll following his £9m lottery win as “Lotto-Lout” and “King of the Chavs” is a good example of this. Carroll spent his winnings in under a decade, earning himself an ASBO and multiple arrests in the process. The moral of the story rests on Carroll reported as being “happier” now he’s renting a “modest flat” and working in a “biscuit factory for £6 an hour” (Smith, 2013). Carroll’s decade of lottery escapades provided ample fuel for the British red top paper’s early noughties condemnation of “benefit scroungers” and lent a cartoonish narrative to the Malthusan idea that some people are just meant to be poor. This is of particular importance in areas such as the area around The Wash where groups of poor whites, domestic and migrant, are positioned in opposition to each other in a competitive homogenous labour market.
Understanding domestic working class conceptualisations of race and ethnicity in areas outside of the “global city” is of central importance when attempting to understand the ways that globalisation impacts on local areas. Subjectivities are born from combinations of day to day practices and wider systemic actions which roll out differently across urban and rural areas due to multiple factors and as a result locality begins to emerge as a point of intersection in conceptions of class.
Virdee (2014) reminds us that British racism differs from US racism in the way that aspects of race and ethnicity have intertwined in the historic treatment of Irish Catholics and European Jews, reinforcing Hall’s (1980:338) observation that there can be no general theory of racism, only local and specific racisms. Thus class as a representational form and a material relation is, as a result of both history and wider global processes, always indelibly nationalised and racialised (Virdee, 2014:5) and perhaps further to this, localised dependent on multiple, overlapping and interacting temporal and spatial processes.
The Global Countryside.
Explorations of rural and peri-urban areas such as the area around The Wash can provide a unique contribution to studies and theories of globalisation and global flows of capital and labour as the rural has specific and particular challenges and opportunities (Nelson and Nelson, 2010). For example, most empirical and theoretical research on immigration, social integration and community change is grounded in urban settings (see Alba and Nee, 2003; Allen and Turner,1996; Hiebert and Ley, 2003 for work of assimilation, De Genova, 2005; Friedman and Randeria, 2004; Isin 2000 for work on citizenship and belonging in an era of globalisation). While their urban focus is logical and appropriate, the scale and complexity of urban landscapes can complicate the process of unpacking and isolating the ways in which migration effects enactments of social belonging (Nelson and Nelson, 2010), and the simultaneous effects of deterritorialisation, deindustrialization, suburbanization, gentrification and other forms of economic restructuring. Furthermore in sprawling metropolitan areas migrants are more apt to form social and economic enclaves (ibid). In contrast, the smaller scale of rural and peri-urban places allows scholars an important window into the processes of community change. Although groups (in terms of class or ethnicity) can be segregated in rural areas there are spaces which must be shared such as GP surgeries, schools, and supermarkets. As a result rural and peri-urban communities as seen in the area around The Wash can offer an important geographical context through which to examine the production of subjectivity under neoliberal governance regimes.
This research responds to Woods (2007) call for a literature of place-based studies which adopt an integrated perspective in examining the impact of different forms and aspects of local neoliberalisms in rural localities, and that explore precisely how rural places are re-made under specific political and economic regimes and start to account for the differential geographies of neoliberalism across rural space.
This research will modify this relational “global countryside” using Jones (2009) concept of “phase space” which rejects the notion that we should be forced to adopt a “networks versus territories approach”, urging that networks must be anchored in spatial reality whilst scales remain open and plastic. Through adopting a “phase space” analysis of Wood’s “global countryside” I hope to propose a “global countryside 2.0” where multiple, shifting, tangled and dynamic networks connecting rural to rural and rural to urban exist within an “ensemble ontology” (Jones, 2009) which acknowledges the intra-action of structure and flow with the evolutionary and developmental nature of spatiality. This method positions socio spatial relationships such as those between the urban and the rural as neither automatic nor naturally necessary features of capitalism. Here the “global countryside 2.0” is a process bound and practically shaped space which emerges through a mutually transformative evolution of inherited spatial structures within an actively differentiated, continually evolving matrix of institutions, territories and regulatory activities (ibid).
The “global countryside 2.0” is seen in this context as both within and constitutive of “phase space” (ibid), framed by the balance between different socio-economic, geopolitical, and cultural institutionalising forces. This framework allows the possibility to “freeze a moment in spacetime” (ibid) in order to question which emergent regimes are moving into power and which forces are energising them, moving on to tracing continuities and consequences of the uneven rollout of these regimes (ibid) and the “dual movements” between areas and subjectivities. This presents an opportunity to understand more deeply the “geographies of discontent” in the area around The Wash where multiple, overlapping structural and social vulnerabilities work together to create specific local subjectivities.
This research asks; what can we learn about the regulatory and productive role of the “global countryside” in the formation of subjectivities?
Three sub- questions direct the focus of this broader question.
1. How does the uneven rollout of policies and regulatory frameworks across urban and rural spaces provoke “geographies of discontent” in some less densely populated areas?
2. What kinds of subjectivities, characterized by both behavior and affect, emerge in these areas?
3. What can the above tell us about class as a localized as well as nationalised and racialized category?
The project will use a triad of case studies using a methodology that attempts to bring together material and social data in ways that are sometimes complex and messy.
Case Study One; Employment Agencies. This case study will look at the rise of a new industry of employment agencies in the area and how this has intra-acted with new labour regulations around flexible working and the arrival of A8 migrant workers. It will utilise:
- Spatial Data- Where are the agencies? How long have they been in place? Who (workers and businesses) and from where uses them?
- Document Analysis- What legislation do employment agencies work under? How has this changed in recent years?
- Semi-Structured Interviews with agencies, businesses and workers- regarding processes and opinions.
- Ethnographic Data- Obtained from non-structured interviews and conversations and observed practices from living in the area.
Case Study Two; Low Skill, Low Pay Workers. This case study analyses domestic workers conceptions of the way that poverty and labour practices have been altered as a result of austerity practices and A8 migration. Local migrant populations in the same occupational bracket will also be engaged with to understand issues of discrimination and systemic violence.
- Spatial Data; Who lives where? Are enclaves present? How do people spatially organise living and working?
- Document Analysis; Who is entitled to what – benefits, housing, medical/social care, education. How has this changed since the 2008 financial crash?
- Semi-Structured Interviews; Domestic and A8 workers around working conditions, quality of life, discrimination.
- Ethnographic Data; Obtained through unstructured interviews and observed practices whilst living in the area.
Case Study Three; Support and Public Sector Staff. This case study aims to gain an understanding regarding their conceptions around the ways in which changing policy in both welfare and migration has affected the community.
- Spatial Data- Crime Statistics, Catchment areas, Perceived areas of Deprivation.
- Document Analysis- Changes in Provision over last decade.
- Semi-Structured Interviews- With support and third sector staff regarding their understanding of the ways that austerity, labor practices and migration have affected their work in the community.
- Ethnographic Data- Non structured interviews and “hanging out” through living in the area.
Ethics, Risks and Data Storage.
See appendix 1 for ethics approval form.
This research is an aims to contribute to understandings of the ways that wider systems of economic and social power, with a particular gaze on migration and labour practices, construct specific subjectivities in areas outside of core cities. Through analysing these behaviours as local phenomena occurring outside of core cities due to specific material and social processes within less densely populated areas, this research aims to unpack the relationship between class, rural localities, migration and “geographies of discontent”.
Eric Olund: Importance of recognizing neoliberalism not simply as a process of state withdrawal, but as a kind of redeployment or pivoting of state power, e.g. from welfare to workfare. Thus neoliberalism is a process of re-subjectification. With this in mind, will you consider how government unemployment supports fit into the picture?
Answer: This study is deeply interested in the processes of re-regulation and policy adjustment that leads to re-subjectification. The “flexible neoliberalism” that Peck and Tickall, (2002) describe is really interesting when considering the development of subjectivity.
Catherine Malabou, neuroscientist and political philosopher does really interesting work on this. Marx said, “Humans make their own history, but they do not know that they make it.” (in Malabou, 2008:1) And Malabou updates this using neuroscience. Her claim is that: “Humans make their own brain, but they do not know that they make it” (2008:1) She explores the brain’s ability to form itself and leave empirically observable evidence of this forming. She explains that the way we have understood the brain has traditionally mirrored the way that we understand the regulation of the state (or vice versa) and that this is then subject to processes of intensification.
Importantly, the current understanding of the brain as a decentralized power is precisely the way neo-liberalism works. Malabou stresses here that over-aching systems such as the kind of flexible dynamic demands being made by both employment and current governmental unemployment schemes and medical perceptions of the human both work on the premise that humankind is a dynamic, autonomous and flexible agent, responsible for ourselves and with the “freedom” to modify ourselves according to future demands, risks and contingencies (Vailaho, 2014). This study is deeply concerned with this intra-action between perceptions of what it means to be human and where this logic dovetails with governmental regulation.
Jess Dubow: Need to articulate the fundamental difference between subjectification and subjection, and be sure this comes through in your writing and title. Also, how might Raymond Williams’ The Country and the City figure into the project and possibly presage some of the dynamics you are studying?
Answer: I have consulted with Jessica about how to clarify my use of terms and amended my document accordingly. Raymond Williams The Country and the City is a central element of my reading list for the post upgrade period.
David Robinson: The area around Doncaster also comes up as significant in your rationale- could you explain why the area around The Wash is more appropriate than Doncaster for this study?
Answer: The area around Doncaster may have similar issues with high levels of migrant workers and poverty but it is quite different in other ways. The transport links in Doncaster are much better than in the area around The Wash and it is much more connected to other urban areas. As a result it doesn’t sit within the broader trend that I’m interested in of larger, more sparsely populated areas with a labour market that depends on agriculture and food production.
The grounded nature of industry based on agriculture is of central importance to the project since governmental strategies of capital result in a severance of social, political, and cultural practices from defined spaces referred to by Deleuze and Guattari (1972) as “deterritorialization”. Guattari (1987) stated that this phenomena tends to bring labouring populations into the lower class sectors and spaces of relatively wealthy societies and appears to result in domestic communities withdrawing into themselves and reterritorializing through nationalist, classist, corporatist and paternalistic strategies (see also; Appaduri, 1990; Foucault, 2003; Lazzarato, 2009). This theoretical model has cogency with current patterns observed in areas outside of core cities across Western Europe and the USA. This research project aims to understand the ways that subjectivities are produced in locations outside of core cities, in order to understand ways in which different subjectivities emerge in different spaces.
This study aims to explore the methods through which rural governance interacts with wider flows of labour, capital and affect in a “dual movement” (Lazzarato, 2014:174) that produces, regulates and solidifies some subjectivities whilst detteritorialising others. Through this analysis a contribution will be made to the understanding of class as a representational form and a material relation which is dependent on local, spatial factors.
- Are you interested in the relationship between individual and collective subjectivity? How do you see this relationship? How does this get spatialized, that is do we see a kind of coherent collective subjectivity or identity for an area? What kinds of cleavages and differences might we see between different groups (even different groups of Brits) in the area? How might these spatial collective subjectivities relate to the UK economic pecking order?
Answer: These questions are really important to the epistemological grounding of my project. Although there is no simple or easy answer to this question in broad strokes I conceptualise it this way: human subjectivity is incredibly malleable, because of the unique way that humans gestate (Dissanyake, 2000). The human infant enters the world less fully developed than say a kitten or a horse. We are, essentially, for the first few months of our lives external foetuses, developing our nervous system and neural networks in intra-action with the environment around us. This means we are both each deeply unique but also heavily influenced by the dominant culture around us (ibid). We are also continuously plastic, adaptive and geared up for social interaction (ibid, Malabou, 2008).
In global cities where there is a fast and steady level of migration of different kinds of people in and out individualism is more apparent. This can be seen as influencing culture in a feedback loop where diversity increasingly intensifies. This is important when considering recent political events and a key reason for my selection of the area around The Wash where prior to the A8 expansion there had been low levels of movement in and out of the communities (it did not represent a popular suburban area in the de-industrial period of the 1960’s onwards). Neoliberal framings of human nature as seen in Malabou’s (2008) work often emphasis our individual subjectivities which in turn emphasises freedom and the responsibility of the individual. I want to try to understand the limits of this individuality and how subjectivity works in communities who have traditionally been grounded in one place and how this subjectivity reacts to the arrival of flexible subjectivities and demands.
The processes through which these are spatialized and the kinds of cleavages and differences might we see between different groups, even different groups of Brits in the area is of central interest in attempting to unpack these questions. The relationship of these spatially collective subjectivities to the UK economic pecking order is also important to this study, since the kind language that describes depression and also inability to participate in the neoliberal labour market such as; stuckness, slowness all also apply to the kind of grounded nature of agricultural communities which depend on a situated subjectivity.
- Suggestion to read a book and working paper on neoliberalism by Soss, Schram, and Fording; he is happy to loan the book to you and forward the working paper.
Answer: I will contact Adam in order to obtain this book and paper for my reading.
- Suggestion to consider maps of the index of multiple deprivation
Answer: I think maps of the index of multiple deprivation will be very important to this project.
- Following from Eric’s point about re-subjectification, how coherent or vulnerable are subjectivities, how do they get routinely manipulated (e.g. through tabloids, social media), how might we understand subjectivities as fractured and not mapping onto a coherent political project?
Answer: I hope that these questions and attempts to define these terms will be a central part of the contribution of my project as understanding the construction of subjectivity and it’s multiple and context dependent nature is in my mind, key to understanding how best to support integration and welfare support.
Miguel Kanai: How will your methods allow you to get at the processes of subjection and subjectification you are interested in? That is, are there other more creative or psychoanalytic methods that you could draw upon here?
I feel that the understanding of subjection will come from understanding the intra-action between regulatory mechanisms and individual emotional experiences. There are a variety of creative techniques that I am interested in using during both the structured and non-structured interviews.
I’ve chosen to use Katz’s (1996) “Minor theory” because I believe it can provide a multi-faceted way of understanding the reproduction of space in intra –action with political-economic and socio-cultural processes (Katz, 2001). Minor theory reads connections and commonalities against top down topographies of global capitalism and power. It utilizes mixed methods to interrogate the ways in which bottom up and top down material relations intertwine with the emergence of subjectivities which together dictate the ongoing negotiation and remaking of both rural and urban spaces (Heeley and Jones, 2012).
I’ve been considering using “Derive methods” (Debord, 1958) in my non-structured interviews and ethnographic work. I recognize, however, that these could prove difficult to incorporate. I’m planning on doing some of my structured work in the field before seeing how I can draw from some of the following techniques.
Derives or non-structured walks can lead to creative mapping exercises where I might ask participants to explain areas to me using non textual methods. I am interested in drawing from Bingley’s (2003) “tactile methodology’s” which use art materials as a way of getting beyond habitual responses in order to explore meanings that are usually inaccessible in everyday conscious life and thought. As directed by Bondi (2003) this work will not use creative methods to dominate the process or move the project away from traditional methods, rather I will aim to incorporate creative and emotional techniques in order to interrogate and reify traditional methods and as well as issues of positionality and power between the researcher and participants.
The potential of staging community exhibitions for these creative outputs will be considered as a means of effecting wider impacts of this research and as an important part of empowering participants. .
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 “Low skill,-low pay” work is identified, for the context of this study as roles not requiring higher education qualifications such as factory machine operators, agricultural labourers and fruit pickers who are paid around the minimum wage of £7.50 per hour, often on “zero hour contracts”.
 A8” refers to the eight countries- Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia (later joined in 2007 by Romania and Bulgaria) which joined the European Union in 2004. The UK placed no restrictions on freedom of movement or access to the labour market for this group.
 The notion of “low integration” comes from a 2016 policy report that examines “identity integration” ie how minorities living in English and Welsh towns feel, alongside “structural integration” ie how well minorities living in that area mix with other ethnic groups (Gallagher, 2016).
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