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Title: Talking race in everyday spaces of the city
Author: Harries, Bethan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 2843
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis explores the lived experience of race as told through narratives of the city. It draws on photo diaries, observations and qualitative interviews with 32 people aged between 20 and 30 years old in three areas of Manchester. It examines how discourses, which construct UK cities as tolerant and multicultural spaces, are reproduced by the respondents and yet are contradicted by their everyday experiences. It argues that narratives that actively silence race, for example through notions of tolerance and colour-blindness, obscure the ways that people are differentially positioned and makes it difficult to name difference and name racism. The thesis explores a series of dilemmas that form part of the struggle to reconcile multiple and often contradictory levels of experience and situates these within the broader political context. The thesis engages with discussions around what have been broadly defined as ideas of ‘post-race’. It argues that the city becomes a useful avenue through which to direct this discussion, because it acts as a location in which race is imagined in conflicting ways; simultaneously as a site of segregation and conflict and cosmopolitanism and ‘mixing’.The thesis explores how people talk race through their representations of different spaces of the city. It argues that people’s stories about their relationship to place help make perceptible the different ways that they deal with difference. Race is silenced in narratives of place, emerging primarily through coded references to class and criminality, except when it is articulated with exotic and ‘sympathetic’ representations of the ‘ethnic’ or ‘migrant’ neighbourhood, or with a white underclass. It also examines how, within these narratives, people talk about knowing others that they emphasise are racially or ethnically different. Notions of tolerance and colour-blindness are invoked throughout these narratives and used to suggest that they are emblematic of a new generation. The thesis argues that the respondents' narratives resonate with national discourses of multiculture that imagine liberal spaces of cosmopolitanism and, simultaneously, silence inequalities and exclusion. The central problem is that these discourses and processes of silencing do not take account of the meanings of race and how people are differentially positioned. Consequently, they disable questions about the significance and the effects of race. This has implications for how racism can(not) then be named. People subjected to racism are, instead, under pressure to assimilate and conform to the behavioural norm. The thesis argues that respondents’ narratives of the everyday can, therefore, be interpreted as a form of orientalism (Puwar 2004). They are indicative of the kind of multiculturalism that ‘tolerates’ and ‘bestows rights’ on the racialised Other, but does nothing to demythologise the Other, or engage with the needs of minorities (Amin, 2010). The façade of ‘racial etiquette’ when it is constructed as such, thus implies a ‘refusal to understand’ (Foucault 1978), because to do so would necessitate confronting the currency of racism and the fact of white privilege.
Supervisor: Byrne, Bridget; Nazroo, James Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: race ; young adulthood ; city ; space ; Manchester