Introducing the plenary speakers: Professor Anoop Nayak

How might we examine new ethnicities in young lives, beyond cities which are obvious hubs of multiculture? Anoop Nayak’s work takes forward some of the concerns of New Ethnicities and Urban Culture namely, changing forms of identities and racism in the lives of young people, but in a different set of contexts which in turn generates new questions for the study of race and youth. Focussing on the North East of England, Anoop’s book Race, Place and Globalization: Youth Cultures in a Changing World is an ethnographic examination of how young people forge belonging in post-industrial settings. This involves a careful examination of formations of whiteness, youth and gender on shifting ground. This work problematises an image of this region as a place of unchanging (flat?) whiteness and examines how global flows and changing econmic circumstances feed into the production of identities. For example, how is being a Geordie, an identity that was previously tied up with forms of industrial labour, recast in a city that is now based more on consumption than production? How is this identity raced, classed and gendered?

This deconstruction of whiteness as produced and performed, and its entanglements with class and gender, builds on earlier research on skinheads in the West Midlands where the theme of the performance and the doing of race is central. Anoop writes:

‘The nostalgic portrayals of white working-class men are voiced in bodily descriptions of them as ‘the backbone of the nation’, ‘the salt of the earth’, ‘the heart of the country’ etc. Such earthy metaphors not only articulate notions of class and gender, but are premised on static notions of a rooted white community. Rather than seeing whiteness as the unchanging, anatomical identity fetishized here, I want to suggest that white masculinities are given the appearance of substance in embodied action and synchronized routines…’ (1999, 76)

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Unsettling whiteness in these ways seems particularly important when ‘whiteworkingclass’ is continually used in ways that ossify and naturalise this categorisation.

While I’ve pulled out one strand of Anoop Nayak’s work here, he has also written on  gender and youth, as well as providing theorectical reflections on theories of race in contemporary sociology. His current research focuses on Bangladeshi youth and multicultural encounters in coastal areas and makes a critical contribution in thinking through the co-existence of racism and conviviality – which is what this conference is all about.

Anoop will be speaking on the panel ‘Researching urban multiculture’.

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