Melting into the margins : the disappearance of normality
Melting into the Margins intervenes in the academic and media debate about normality: the white nuclear family and white middle class men. This thesis traces the emergence of the contemporary discourse which suggests that the normal is being displaced into the margins, away from the centre, 'disproved' as a lived condition and shown to be ‘untrue’ as an ideological concept and examines the implications and effects of this discourse. A new discourse of the normal is deemed necessary by the academic disciplines of masculinity and family studies because they argue that we live in a new age of tolerance, equality, meritocracy and plurality. The disciplines of masculinity and family studies that this thesis critiques argue that in this new age and new society the ‘old’ idea of a white, middle class, gendered, heterosexual normality is becoming unworkable and obsolete. This thesis examines the new discourse itself and its archive (Foucault, 1972), in the form of contemporary representations of white men and the white, middle class, heterosexual nuclear family. Beginning with the idea that white men were traditionally and historically invisible this thesis argues that this was never so and that the centre of our society has always been visible. This thesis offers a critique of the current project from the academy and from the media that proposes to ‘make-the-centre-visible’ in order to 'prove' that normality does not exist. I argue that this project, which exposes failure, doubt and abnormality beneath the surface appearance of the normal is a project set up by white middle class people for white middle class people. The new project, its discourse and archive attempt to demonstrate that no-one has any extra-ordinary power in our society because of race, gender or class. This thesis argues that this demonstration evidenced in the academy and the media takes an extreme anti-essentialist view point that eventually denies that there are any limits to choice or opportunity. The denial of an excluding and exclusionary normal predicated on concepts of difference suggests a pure meritocracy, which helps to justify the continuing domination of white men. The aim of Melting into the Margins is to offer a critique of the current discourse of normality and an examination of its archive and to offer ways forward that can truly fulfil the stated objectives of masculinity and family studies: the deconstruction of the exclusive, excluding white, middle class centre of British society - the normal.