Theme 5: Culture, Participation and Inequality
Outline and Objectives
This theme explores the intersection between historical and individual change to examine the dynamics of social and cultural participation since 1945. Questioning the popular ‘epochalist’ view that there are declining levels of participation and social cohesion, we will instead broaden the research agenda to recognize the importance of ‘ordinary’ and ‘critical’ forms of engagement and activism. We thus look beneath and beyond ‘indicator’ models of participation to examine the often fluid and informal mechanisms which generate opaque, unorthodox and unappreciated kinds of engagement. We thereby seek to avoid prioritizing particular kinds of activity – for instance in voluntary associations or in ‘legitimate’ cultural institutions (museums, art galleries, etc) – in order to elaborate a wide ranging relational analysis more attuned to the links between everyday life practices and ‘mundane’ social and cultural involvements. We are interested in how the delineation of social and cultural participation by government departments, businesses, the media, cultural institutions, voluntary organizations, academic researchers, and so on - are themselves implicated in legitimizing and contesting what it means to be engaged and active. A key part of our concern therefore lies in seeing how these different agencies themselves construct ‘indicators’ of engagement, so that we can recognize the absences, partialities and motives they entail.
In developing an historically sophisticated analysis of trajectories of participation, we will elaborate on the changing boundaries deployed by social and political agents to define involvement. This will be part of a wider concern with recognizing how participation can be enhanced by the conflicts and tensions which define stakes and which excite, energise and mobilize participants in various ways. Taking issue with those who see a generalized decline of social engagement and participation, we instead explore the reworking of the terms in which legitimate forms of participation are identified. We will examine the changing relationship between elite and popular forms of social and cultural participation. We will pursue the argument that whereas in the post-war years, popular and elite forms of engagement contested directly with each other, we have now entered a situation where participation is structured around unacknowledged middle class norms which indirectly disadvantage working class and marginal populations of various kinds. We therefore see it as important to develop more sophisticated historical accounts which are also attuned to the role of lifecycle and generational processes in shaping people’s social and cultural activities. Part of our work will thus involve reflecting on developing theoretical frameworks, where we engage with issues arising from Bourdieu’s field analysis; urban sociological debates concerning segregation and the urban public realm; network processes; and interests in time, temporality and sequencing
Although we are concerned with international and national trajectories, we will mainly use a series of interconnected studies of Greater Manchester to explore these issues. As a city which has undergone radical restructuring, from the industrial heartland of the 19th century cotton textile industry, a major centre for the new industries from the early 20th century, and its recent re-incarnation as a service led city specializing in cultural, leisure, and tourist activity, this is a perfect site to reflect on trajectories of involvement.
Areas of empirical investigation 2009-2012
We plan four areas of empirical investigation, each with specific collaborative projects
Area 1: Generation, aging and participation (Savage, Scherger, Miles, Moore, Buhlmann, Nazroo, Warde) We have shown in CRESC 1 that rather than the cleavage between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture being based predominantly on class divisions, age is now a key differentiating principle which distinguishes the middle aged and elderly who are attracted towards established and traditional cultural forms (e.g. classical music concerts, museum and art gallery attendance) from younger age groups who are attracted to popular/ commercial forms of music and cultural consumption. (Bennett et al 2009; Scherger 2008). This area seeks to develop both theoretical and substantive analyses of generation, age and temporality, using both quantitative and qualitative analyses, and also seeking to inter-relate these in original and methodologically distinctive ways, such as the use of multiple correspondence analysis. Accordingly we are interested in using longitudinal data sets and mode of analysis where possible.
An important part of this project involves a joint authored special issue of a book on Theorising generation. Noting the relative neglect of the importance of generational and age relations in social scientific thinking about participation, this theme will explore analytically how to understand these relations as a means of taking stock of findings from this cluster of work and also producing a position statement which will interest a wider audience. Outputs to include a position paper but also to explore the possibility of a collaborative special issue of a journal on the theme of ‘ageing and social change’.
Area 2: Changing boundaries of disengagement and participation (Savage, Miles, Todd, Bottero, Gayo-Cal, Gilmore) will examine how social inequalities structure formal, informal and more opaque kinds of cultural involvement. This is strategically important in view of current policy concerns with social capital dedicated to increase engagement. We recognize that educated middle class groups are more likely to participate in a wide range of formal and legitimate cultural institutions, compared to working class and more marginalized groups. However, we contest the view that this is a sign that the working classes are socially disengaged more generally, noting their active kinship based and neighbourhood involvements, and the way that engagement with popular media can be conceptualized as active forms of engagement. We are interested in recognizing how the demands of work, and the remaking of urban neighbourhoods can affect the activities of these groups. We therefore seek to go beyond ‘deficit’ models implied by the ‘social exclusion’ literature and criticize views that they are simply passive or isolated. Within this we are especially interested in examining the territorial dimensions of involvement and engagement, where the contestation over belonging, including the scales at which such claims are defined, is central to understanding forms of participation.
Substantively, we will draw on research probing the leisure-time practices of people from different working class and marginalized communities within the Greater Manchester city-region. This group is the subject of frustration among the marketing departments of cultural institutions and cultural policymakers alike, and our research will attract considerable policy interest. We plan a collaborative edited book ‘Reframing working class culture’ to emerge from this area, as well as the following specific projects.
Area 3: Redrawing the cultural sector (Miles, Parker, Favell, Savage, Gilmore, Wolff; Pickstone, Todd). Recognising that the cultural sector itself sets the terms for formal understandings of engagement and disengagement, this area examines the workings of the cultural sector, the relationship between ‘legitimate’ cultural institutions and other public and private sector bodies, and the institutional frameworks which support alternative cultural forms. A major component of our analysis here will be locate the dynamics of present day arrangements in the historical context of the cultural sector’s emergence from the post-war political settlement as a distinct arena of production and governance. A particular focus will be on Manchester as a case study, deploying a series of linked local studies, also in association with other areas, notably area 2 above (notably Miles, Gibson, Bottero).
An important actrivity will include a a website dedicated to a ‘cultural sector map of Manchester’, to be used for academics and non academics. This will include biographical listings of of key individuals, events, and institutions, but including our interpretation and analysis of these links and relationships. This to lead also to a book on ‘Mapping Manchester culture’ which will draw on the various commitments listed below and which will be team authored. It is also hoped that this will lead to specialized teaching activities, e.g. in the form of short courses aimed at cultural sector professionals.
Area 4: Comparative Analyses of Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion (Silva, Warde, Savage, Gayo-Cal) .This area will build on path-breaking CCSE project which has argued for the need to recognize the power of cultural capital in contemporary Britain, conceived not as a form of ‘snob’ culture, but as the ability to range widely over a number of key cultural genres, whilst avoiding and denigrating some cultural forms.
A key part of this work is to participate and elaborate in an international network concerned with measuring the comparative dimensions of cultural capital. We have active alliances with researchers in Australia, Chile, Denmark, France, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Portugal, and the United States, and plan a collaborative book which both considers national variants in cultural capital and develops a more global and mobile perspective (Silva, Savage, Bennett, Warde). This also to lead to grant applications.
A major stream of work here is Cultural Capital: urban explorations across Europe (Silva, Savage, Warde). Linking with area 3, above, this will use a Manchester case study to examine both the production and demand for different cultural institutions to map out how cultural capital can be delineated in the use of urban space. This will then act as comparison point with other local studies, including academics collaborating in the SCUD network: Aalborg (Denmark), Stavanger (Norway), Porto (Portugal), Amiens (France), and in other nations (Santiago de Chile). This will be linked to the Hallsworth funding for the urban sociologist, Simon Parker to visit CRESC/ IPEG in 2009-2010 to run a series of seminars on the urban.
Business Engagement/ Users
We have already built up strong user engagement which we will continue. The most significant partners include
- DCMS, linked both to CRESC’s accreditation as a supplier to their ‘rapid response unit’ and Miles’s ESRC-funded secondment to the department to work on cultural capital, which forms the basis of an ongoing dialogue between the CRESC labs and the DCMS Evidence and Analysis Unit. We will invite DCMS analysts and policy makers to the seminars above and also explore possible co-hosting of seminars relevant to their specific policy concerns
- ACE, linked to their funding of OU research student and liaison with Silva
- NW Cultural Sector. We are webbed into all the leading institutions through the work of Gilmore, Miles, Todd and Pickstone.
- Providing advice and consultancy to Feminist Webs on oral history; and also to the Millthorpe Project – an organisation in the process of forming and focussed around LGBT lives, past, present and future - and currently undertaking oral histories of LGBT activists around union activism.
- We plan to work in association with MAD theatre company to develop forms of ‘alternative’ theatre.
Our main aim is to develop a web resource, backed by printed sources as appropriate, which pioneers a ‘cultural map of Manchester’. This is to be relevant to users but will offer CRESC’s own interpretation and analyses of cultural participation within it. This engagement is to be further developed through conferences and workshops
Our main concern here is to build an international team interested in researching cultural capital comparatively, and supported by grant applications. One strand will be linked to the Social and Cultural Differentiation network (Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Portugal), whose plans include collaborative volumes on cultural capital in Europe. This network will be strengthened by further collaborations with colleagues in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Chile, Spain. The aim will be to define CRESC as key partner in international research networks concerned with the cultural aspects of social inequality.