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Anthropology (Pitzer)

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Social classes, Class consciousness


I consider Walkerdine's second point that social borders -- especially those of class and work -- are sites of pain. She illustrates that contention with stories of working-class British women who had university educations and moved into the middle class but never felt they fully belonged, of workers in South Wales who are dislocated by the closing of their central mine or manufacturing plant, and of Australian manufacturing workers who are trying, sometimes with great difficulty, to remake themselves as flexible service and sales workers. I was intrigued by the implication for theories of motivation. Generally, we focus on drives or the pull of desired goals, but Walkerdine's examples remind us that action is not only impelled by positive desires but also can be inhibited or deflected by guilt, anxiety, and melancholia. I am thinking of Susan, who does not take full-time lectureships because she wants to remain connected to her parents through shared poverty, or Jim, downsized out of his manufacturing job, who is willing to make a midcareer change to contract cleaning work, but balks at taking on the personality of an enthusiastic salesman for his services and so cannot get work. Her interview excerpts effectively illustrate her contention that the celebration of such class and work identity crossings as “hybridity” overlooks the psychological conflicts that can ensue from changed or mixed identities.


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