A new paper by Mark Featherstone, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, has been published in City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action. The abstract for the paper follows and more details can be accessed here.
Featherstone, M. (2013) ‘‘Being-in-Hull, Being-on-Bransholme: Socio-economic decline, regeneration and working-class experience on a peri-urban council estate’, City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action.
The objective of this paper is to investigate the sociological and existential situation of the inhabitants of Bransholme, a peri-urban council estate on the northern edge of Hull, in the context of the current economic downturn and contemporary regeneration discourses. In ‘reading’ life on the estate against economic decline and regeneration practices, I aim to show why the latter cannot really succeed because they are premised on (a) a failure to understand the situation of the socially excluded and (b) injustices and inequalities hard-wired into the very form of late capitalism itself. In light of this thesis, my claim is that only large-scale changes to the neo-liberal socio-economic system will save Hull, and as a consequence, the people of Bransholme, because only this will oppose the ‘winner takes all’, exclusive neo-liberal politics Meagher discusses in her 2009 work on ‘urbs sacra’ and ‘rurban America’ and offer hope for some kind of spatial justice. In order to reach this conclusion, I divide my paper into three sections. First, I explore recession, decline, dislocation and the socio-economic condition of the city. Second, I consider regeneration as discourse and offer some theoretical considerations towards the development of what I call ‘the language game of post-Thatcherite hyper-rational utopianism’ which constructs the de-industrialised city as a business to be saved through the advance of market principles. Finally, I turn to thinking about life on the estate through reference to my own ethnographic observations in order to suggest that the condition of the excluded is not somehow a natural state, but rather an effect of their immersion in a temporal and spatial environment, which has been destroyed by market forces premised on the objectivity of processes such as creative destruction. Thus, I explore ‘Being-in-Hull’ and ‘Being-on-Bransholme’ in terms of notions of territoriality, marginality and what I call ‘the culture of despair’ in contemporary working-class life.