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Michelle Addison (Northumbria), Andy Clark (Newcastle), James Pattison (Manchester), Aija Lulle (Loughborough)

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Michelle Addison (Northumbria): ‘Everyone thinks you’re scum’: The Painful Classed Dimensions of Using Drugs

This paper discusses the painful affective dimensions of class by looking at the impacts of stigma attached to people who use (or have used) illicit drugs. In doing so, I explore everyday experiences of social and health inequalities, disparities in power and sensations of feeling out of place from the perspective of people who use drugs in neoliberal times. Drawing on qualitative in-depth interviews (fieldwork ongoing) with women and men who use heroin, crack cocaine and amphetamine, this study* presents emerging findings about how classed stigma is experienced, negotiated and resisted by some of these most marginalised voices. These insights illustrate that negotiating stigma involves mobilising ‘valued’ capital as well as efforts to resist the negative classed inscriptions from others in society. I argue that these everyday negotiations of class and stigma are fraught with difficulty and not only impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing, but present important implications for how these people access support services. This paper concludes that class stigma can be an impossible refusal for many of the most vulnerable people in society who use drugs, and contributes to widening social and health inequalities

Andy Clark (Newcastle): ‘As soon as you say you’re from here…’ : The Half Life of Deindustrialisation and the Impacts of Organised Crime

This paper investigates the interrelated impacts of serious organised crime (SOC) and the half-life of deindustrialisation (Linkon, 2018) in a former industrial locality. Specifically, it considers the ways in which working-class communities experience different forms of stigmatisation caused by ‘reputations of multiple deprivation’. Industrial contraction and the presence of serious organised crime is often interconnected in working-class lived experience, but there is little discussion of these relationships in existing deindustrialisation literature. Mah (2014) argues that the decline of industry created a vacuum within working-class communities. I contend that SOC was able to fill this in multiple ways, including illicit drugs to facilitate escapism, paid criminal activity to replace lost employment, goods provision at a lower cost than the ‘legitimate’ economy, and by repurposing abandoned industrial sites. In this paper, I present research on Tunbrooke, a working-class community in the west of Scotland. Tunbrooke is synonymous with deindustrialisation and SOC in Scotland. Drawing on over forty interviews, I discuss the ways in which these multiple stigmas shape the lived experience of the interviewees. I argue that respondents largely concede that Tunbrooke will continue to suffer the effects of economic deprivation, criminality, and stigmatization. However, rather than passively accepting this, there is opposition to the external view of the locality as ‘a violent shithole’ (interview with author, 2017), with an emphasis on kinship and solidarity through adversity. I argue that these perceptions are framed through a lasting communal working-class identity, formed through the industrial period and strengthened as the area experienced the fallout of the half-life of deindustrialisation and the recent impacts of political austerity.

James Pattison (Manchester): ‘The whole of Shirebrook got put on an ASBO’: Negotiating territorial stigmatisation in the ‘Sports Direct town’

Based on 15-months of ethnographic research, this paper will investigate the effects of territorial stigmatisation in Shirebrook. In particular, the focus will be on the ways in which residents negotiate and respond to the affective dynamics invoked by residing in a stigmatised place. As part of the regeneration scheme created to relieve the impact of the colliery’s closure in 1993, Sports Direct built their headquarters and main distribution warehouse on the site of the former colliery. Sports Direct, Shirebrook’s biggest employer, are renowned for poor working conditions, which are arguably emblematic of contemporary precarious work. A large majority of the approximate 3,000 agency workers employed in the Sports Direct warehouse are migrants from Eastern Europe, which has contributed to and intensified an already long history of class-based territorial stigmatisation in Shirebrook. Shirebrook residents respond to the affect wrought by territorial stigma in various ways. Some use the place-making practice of shared humour as a form of stigma inversion (Wacquant et al 2014). This practice of laughing about Shirebrook amongst its residents illustrates the complexities of symbolic violence and the acceptance of Shirebrook’s subordinated position whilst simultaneously resisting it. Other negotiation practices involved the fierce defence of the town from the scorn directed by outsiders, whilst some engaged in the lateral denigration of deflecting stigma towards less powerful others such as migrants and the unemployed. This paper contributes to the debates on territorial stigmatisation through its application to a relatively small former coalfield town, which provides the opportunity to extend the concept beyond the urban areas where it is usually applied.

Aija Lulle (Loughborough): ‘Eastern European’ stigma: identity management through dis-identification, emphasised nationalism and class dynamics

'Eastern Europeans’ seldom, if at all, identify with this identity label. This creates ambivalence, the process, in which individuals pursue tactics on how to present themselves and feel good with an individual identity. My research examines how migrants manage their identities in Great Britain.

Data draws from my projects in the UK (2010-2018), focusing on research participants who were in ‘working-class’ professional employment. However, not all were necessarily lower-skilled for jobs, nor previously lived as ‘working-class’ in their home countries.

Ambivalence is a process of lacking fixed positionalities. Dialectics of identification and identity process is crucial because ‘Eastern Europeans’ as an identification term cannot be discarded due to media and academic uses of the term as superficially ‘working class’. In the presentation of self in everyday life, Goffman (1959) claimed that people are striving to adjust their social identities with complex images of themselves, and desire to control impressions that other people have of them. Ambivalence of identification with the term ‘Eastern European’ evokes multiple shifts, including denial, empahsised national(istic) and professional identities outside the current employment, and range from stigmatisation to claims of ‘whiteness’ in relation to other migrants. ‘Stigma’ is not an attribute of an identity but emerges in ‘relationships’ (Goffman’s (1963: 13). An ‘Eastern Europeans’ in one geographical or social environment might hide certain attributes that can be stigmatised, but not in others. I claim, and my main contribution in the presentation is, that the most illuminating techniques of ambivalent identity management lead to dis-identification culturally, emphasised nationalism politically and willingness to shift class positions, at least in home countries, which people visit from time to time.

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