Join us for this event, which is part of the CoDE Seminar Series.
We will be joined by Ali Meghji from Cambridge University who will be discussing his research: The (cultural) taste of racial domination: exclusion and representation in middle-class culture.
It is fairly transparent to see how racial domination affects black working-class Brits; they are overrepresented in underemployment, unemployment, insecure employment, and poverty. Sociologically tracking how the black middle-class are racially dominated – beyond individual acts of microaggressions – is a more complex task. Drawing upon thirty-two interviews with black British professionals and ethnographic work in middle-class spaces in London, in this presentation I explore how members of the black middle-class in Britain recognise, and attempt to reconfigure, the racial domination they experience in the middle-class cultural sphere.
My participants formed criticisms of traditional middle-class culture around two concepts: exclusion and representation. They argued that they are often made to feel unwelcome in spaces of traditional middle-class culture, such as art galleries, upmarket restaurants, classical music concert halls, and opera houses. Drawing upon international literature, I theorise such spaces as indicative of ‘white physical space’. However, I also theorise the ‘white symbolic space’. Many of my participants claimed they are not just physically excluded from spaces of middle-class culture, but that authentic black narratives, histories, knowledges, and experiences are also absent in middle-class cultural forms. To this extent, there is also a symbolic exclusion of blackness in traditional middle-class culture. Relatedly, participants claimed that when blackness is visible in middle-class cultural forms, this representation is normally predicated upon a reproduction of dominant stereotypes of blackness.
In response to this spatial and symbolic exclusion, and debased representation, I analyse how members of the black middle-class attempt to reconfigure the tacit conflation between whiteness and middle-class culture. Many of my participants, for instance, signalled a preference for middle-class cultural forms – including literature, art, and theatre – which include positive, or authentic portrayals of blackness. Many also claimed they supported black cultural producers – regardless of the content of the cultural form – as they believe that by increasing the legitimacy of black cultural producers, they can also increase the legitimacy of black consumers of middle-class cultural forms.
Prior research has demonstrated how the black middle-class often refer to themselves as invisible members of society. My research examines how this invisibility is produced, felt, and reconfigured in the middle-class cultural sphere.
- This is a free event and open to all- no registration required.