Slang shouldn’t be banned … it should be celebrated, innit

Dr Rob Drummond, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University, has recently published an article in The Conversation.

In the piece,  he explores the increasing policing of young people’s language, looking specifically at a case at a school in Essex in which teachers actually banned particular slang words used in the television series, The Only Way is Essex.

The school argued that by encouraging use of ‘proper English’ they would increase the children’s job prospects: using phrases such as “well jel” would not be appropriate in an interview setting.

However, will stemming the children’s use of language prohibit expression of identity and creativity?

You can read the full article at:


Austerity: Local and Global

‘Austerity’ is a word which is becoming increasingly prevalent in politics, academic debate and the media in recent years. Whilst austerity is supposedly temporary, it has affected us all and will do so increasingly in the years to follow. Austerity is not merely a word in political discourse but a shared and lived experience.

On Wednesday 27th April 2016, we explored the austerity agenda at an event entitledAusterity: Local and Global. The event brought together a panel of scholars from a diverse range of disciplines to explore the origins, local and international formats, and potential trajectories of the austerity agenda. The daytime event featured a postgraduate and activist panel and the evening event consisted of presentations by Professor Raymond Tallis, Professor Sylvia Chant, and Professor Guy Standing. The event was convened by Dr Susie Jacobs from the department of sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Professor Raymond Tallis, Professor Guy Standing and Dr Susie Jacobs

Professor Raymond Tallis, Professor Guy Standing and Dr Susie Jacobs (Photo credit: Rachael Burns)

Austerity is a lived experience, affecting each one of us directly or indirectly. Sam Strong, PhD student at the University of Cambridge, explored the lived experiences of austerity at the foodbank in his talk ‘Shameful Subsistence: Encountering the Lived Experiences of Austerity at the Food Bank’. He worked at a food bank as part of his research and saw first-hand the tragic effects of austerity on normal people. He presented testimonies of those who used foodbanks, including the story of Paul and Jenny, both of whom had not received their benefits through no fault of their own, and had previously “never thought [they] would need to use a food bank”. Austerity also has indirect effects; Rowan Sandle from Leeds Beckett University explored the effects of the cuts on lone parents in her presentation ‘The Psychological Cost of Austerity: A Focus on Lone Motherhood – Experiences and Representations’. Statistics show that whilst cuts to mental health and the public sector do not affect women directly because women are more likely to be on welfare and/or working in the public sector and 92% of lone parents are women, one-parent families are ultimately drastically affected.

One result of austerity is NHS privatisation, which Professor Raymond Tallis of the University of Manchester explored in his evening lecture entitled ‘The Dismantling of the NHS: from Lord Howe’s Wicked Dream to George Osborne’s Austerity’. In his words “I’m going to talk about wickedness, we don’t talk about wickedness enough. But what is truly wicked is the vandalism of one of the greatest achievements of civilisation in the UK”. The NHS reached its highest levels of satisfaction in 2010, and 84% people are against its privatisation. However, in the past 6 years privatisation has encroached the general public through a combination of “defunding, discrediting, and devolving”. In the 1990s, the phrase ‘business plan’ became common talk within hospitals, which then had to compete for money and resources. To Professor Tallis “competition is anti-cooperation”. The Private Finance Initiative, which was embraced by the labour party, greatly increased funding to the NHS but simultaneously allowed taxpayers’ money to be directed from health-care to profits, and not redirected into the economy. Professor Tallis dubbed the initiative as “Plans for Future Insolvency”. By painting the NHS in an increasingly bad light in the media, privatisation is an ongoing process, allowing fragmentation, cherry picking of health care and inequality throughout. In 2015, the UK reported a 5.7% death increase, which was the first increase since 1970. In the words of Michael Portillo: “if we’d have told the public what we were going to do nobody would have voted for us”.

The media has a large role in perpetuating the myths enveloping austerity. Narratives of shame surround those in need of welfare who are frequently referred to as “lazy” in headlines such as “End the War On Scroungers”. Rowan Sandle described TV shows such as Benefits Street as “poverty porn”, which aim to paint the vulnerable in a negative light. However, this propaganda has little basis in reality, and the theory differs much from the reality.

The daytime postgraduate panel

The daytime postgraduate and activist panel (Photo credit: Rachael Burns)

Dr John David Jordan of Manchester Metropolitan University presented on ‘Welfare’s Austerity Regime? Exploring Ideology and Reality in the UK Government’s ‘Work Programme’. The work programme is a compulsory scheme launched in 2011 to help get people back to work, in theory the programme provides job seekers with incentive and assistance in finding jobs and long-term employment. However, in reality, staff are too busy to check the number of jobs applied for a week, and 80-90% do not get work. For the few who do find ‘sustained employment’, this often consists of many short-term jobs, after which they join the programme again. However, the real problems lie in the sanctions made by staff. Staff are expected to make 2-3 sanctions a day, including cuts to benefits. This can result in immense hardship, debt, starvation, homelessness and poverty.

The culture of shame surrounding the acceptance of welfare perpetuates neoliberal views that poverty and hunger are a result of individual failings. Feelings of shame and the experiences of impoverishment are belittled, leading fewer people to seek help. Sam Strong describes it as the “blaming and shaming of poor people”, resulting in a culture where sympathy is not offered to the vulnerable people who need it, for example, in the case of Jenny and Paul who did not receive their benefits through no fault of their own.

Emma Bimpson from the University of Leeds in her talk, ‘Moral and Political Economies of Welfare – Contesting Directions in Local Housing’, suggested that through the media and the representation of welfare “normalisation of risk is being used to govern individuals”. There is a distinct tension between support and independence. This precarity, in which anyone can be devoid of welfare, support and money has been transformed into “a normalised political instrument”, in which the blame and responsibility is forwarded onto the individual. Acknowledgement of this is necessary to achieve political change and put a stop to shame and blame.

Professor Sylvia Chant from LSE disputed the characterisation that “poverty has a female face” in her talk in the evening session, ‘Questioning the ‘Feminisation of Poverty’ in the Global South, and the Wisdom of Feminised Anti-poverty Policy Approaches’. She argued that the “feminisation of poverty in the Global South”, namely Gambia, Philippines and Costa Rica, is inaccurate and in reality gender gaps are narrowing. However, the media have relied upon an unverified and anonymous statistic that “women are 70% of the world’s poor and rising”. By perpetuating this myth, gender equality and economic growth and poverty are misaligned and misconstrued. The result is that more responsibility for ‘solving’ poverty is placed on women, who are an already marginalised group in the Global South. UN Women assured the public that “it is unknown how many of those living in poverty are women and girls” in 2015. Professor Chant suggested that if we cannot separate our problems and find accurate solutions for each, we will not achieve social change.

However, social change is not going to be achieved in the same ways and forms as in history, as the world is a different place than it was in the labour revolts of the 1930s, for example. Professor Guy Standing from SOAS explained how neoliberalism, with its privatisation, commodification and systematic dismantling of all systems of social solidarity, has given rise to a new class system, including, most notably, the precariat, who he describes as “a dangerous class”. This precariat suffers unstable labour, in which they have to work a lot for very little and with no guarantee of employment. The group rely on monetary wages, rather than state benefits. This class is unlikely to be able to practice the qualification they are trained within, and are devoid of a political voice as no party represents their needs – meaning this group do not identify as a collective. However, Professor Standing argues that we need “new forms of collective action in an age of individualisation”: “the unions just aren’t doing it anymore”.

Jon Las Heras from the University of Manchester explored the ways in which a Basque trade union have deviated from major trade union strategies developed in the rest of Spain to achieve results in his talk entitled ‘The Insubordination of a Basque Trade Union: Collective Bargaining Strategies in the Automotive Value Chain’. ELA co-ordinated with smaller trade unions, social movements and non-governmental organisations to develop an overarching platform demanding rights from the Basque government.

As Steph Pike from the Manchester People’s Assembly explains, “there is strength in numbers”. Steph believes austerity is a “political decision” as “the money is there for everything we need”. The People’s Assembly organised 5-days of protests during the Conservative party conference in October 2015, providing the party with “a barrage of Manchester style welcome”. The People’s Assembly “galvanises activists”, to bring people together to show the possibility of an alternative to austerity. Steph explained “austerity will continue unless we fight back and stop it”, and “we can fight back, together we are strong”. Similarly, Brigitte Lechner, Stockport for Mental Health Activist, explained that “solidarity”, or the “movement of people together in one direction towards one goal”, was what “saved” the Stockport Wellbeing Centre.

As poverty, inequality and precarious employment spread across the globe, ‘austerity’ is no longer merely a description or an abstract concept, but something we can see happening on the streets, in the media, and in the world around us. We live in an age where it is getting increasingly difficult to find help when you need it, and as a result, the classes are changing. However, what this event showed is that this is not the only long-term future. By “galvanising” ourselves, we can create a more equal future: “activism is a weapon of the powerless”.

Professor Guy Standing and Professor Raymond Tallis (Photo credit: Rachael Burns)

Professor Guy Standing and Professor Raymond Tallis (Photo credit: Rachael Burns)

Humanities in Public’s World strand continues this weekend with Beyond Babel: A Multilingual Film Festival. To see the full schedule of events, go to:

This event was also published on the Manchester Metropolitan University website at: 

“We tell lies, but we leak truth”

Influence of others is something we all do on a daily basis, often subconsciously. But what language techniques do we apply to encourage others to do the things we want them to?

Professor Dawn Archer shed light on ‘Influencing Others: An Explanation of “How it’s Done” from a (Primarily) Linguistic Perspective’ at an inaugural lecture at Manchester Metropolitan University. She explained the pragmatics of language influence; pragmatics is a branch of linguistics based upon finding meaning from the contexts in which language is used. We make pragmatic choices every day without even realising it.

Photo credit: Ade Hunter

Photo credit: Ade Hunter

Professor Archer explained the trick is “planting an idea and making the other person think they thought of it” – Archer refers to these as “language triggered mind-viruses”. She used the fictional example of Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello, who persuades, manipulates and deceives throughout the play. Professor Archer warned her audience to be careful of any friends who employed the “dark-side tactics” he uses, for example: mis-assigning meaning to actions, giving the impression of an unwillingness to speak ill about others, and answering questions with questions.

The negative use of influence can be detected if you know what to look for. In 2012, Mick Philpott made a public appeal on ITN, following an arson attack to his and his wife’s home that killed their six children. There was something, however, about the appeal that didn’t quite sit right, and when Dawn asked the audience who was moved by the public appeal no one raised their hand. Professor Archer highlighted the inconsistencies in Philpott’s performance that suggested it was an act of deception, for example, he was over-polite, used many credibility qualifiers, and his facial expressions did not always match what he was saying.

Philpott’s use of these tactics was an act of “impression management” – something we all do daily. Our language and body-language are “the very stuff out of which impressions are formed”.

Philpott was later found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison. He and his wife started the fire deliberately with the intention of getting a bigger house for their six children. As Professor Archer put it: “We tell lies but we leak truth”.

Influence does not have to be negative, deceitful or manipulative, however, it can be “altruistic”. Police negotiators must influence subjects in such a way to shift them into a more positive state of mind. This is particularly important with suicidal cases.

Professor Archer showed us a police negotiation gone wrong, where the negotiator overstepped the fine line between guilt and shame. According to Archer, studies have shown that feelings of guilt prompt action. However, in this case, the negotiator employed the wrong techniques, using derogatory language such as “coward” and “shut up”. This tragically led to the subject committing suicide.

The language of influence is inevitably important, and whilst for you and I it mostly means persuading your partner to do the washing up, for some it is life and death.

Professor Jonathan Culpeper from Lancaster University responded to the lecture, providing the audience with “takeaways” that Professor Archer had encouraged him to think about. He questioned the role of morality involved in having the power of influence, asking “white lies, they’re okay aren’t they?”.

With Dawn’s knowledge of all these tactics, she could be a “master manipulator” like Othello’s Iago. However, her “maxim in life” is to influence “for the good of others, as well as myself”, as her own parents, teachers and colleagues have done for her.

As Professor Archer put it “with great influence comes great responsibility”. She “plants seeds and allows them to blossom”. “Imagine how much better the world would be” if everyone used influence for the good of others.

This event preceded the Humanities in Public World strand of events. You can find more information about the full festival schedule here:


Digital Re-Enchantment: Place, Writing, and Technology

In the 21st century, technological advancements influence how we live every day. Twenty years ago, it would be inconceivable that we would hold devices in the palm of our hands capable of exploring the entire history of humanity. And even if we mainly use that device for scrolling through Facebook, technology has changed our social lives, our working lives, and our artistic lives. With this ongoing and quickening change, we need art and language to match up with our experiences.

Poetry, and the language forming it, not only help us to understand our experiences, but also construct how we perceive and think about them. As American linguist, Edward Sapir says “language does not exist apart from culture”.

Dr David Cooper, Senior Lecturer in English at Manchester Metropolitan University, has organised an event for Humanities in Public’s upcoming World strand exploring the ever-changing relationship between nature, technology and poetry. Dr Cooper’s inspiration for the event came as a response to Robert Macfarlane’s latest book Landmarks.

Robert Macfarlane argues that we are losing the language of nature, using the Oxford Junior Dictionary’s recent omissions as an example. The dictionary has removed the word ‘bluebell’ amongst others, and included ‘broadband’ in its place. In an article for The Guardian, Macfarlane writes: “I was dismayed by the language that had fallen (been pushed) from the dictionary. For blackberry, read Blackberry”. Macfarlane’s argument is that because of such omissions throughout language due to “the simulated screen life many of us live”, we are losing an increased appreciation for nature and our experiences within it.

This was Dr Cooper’s basis for the event. He says: “When thinking about the event, I’ve had – in the back of mind – various comments that Robert Macfarlane makes in his most recent book on landscape, Landmarks. As with all of Macfarlane’s writing, I think that there’s much to admire in this publication; but I was left wondering about his assertions that digital technologies are responsible (at least in part) for disconnecting us from the natural world and, as a result, we need to encourage our children to think about blackberries rather than Blackberries”.

Dr Cooper’s project aims to combine the digital with the outdoors by moulding modern experiences and, indeed, modern technologies to equip us with new ways of perceiving, experiencing and enchanting nature. Dr Cooper wants to remind us that there is poetry within nature, and technology can help us engage with this.

He says: “I am not unsympathetic to the point that Macfarlane is making; but, at the same time, I can’t help but feel that it’s Romantically idealistic to think that people will throw out their mobile devices. Instead, therefore, I’m interested in how digital technologies can provide nodes of connection between individual subjects and the material environment”.

Part of Cooper’s project will encourage people to take photographs of the landscape, and Tweet with one word under the hashtag #EnchantThePeak to show that technology can enhance our experiences with and in nature. He says: “I’m particularly interested in how some creative writers are self-consciously and unapologetically turning towards such technologies in their own practices”.

The event, in Derbyshire, will feature an informal symposium, in which creative project co-ordinators, poets and writers will share their experiences of using technology to explore the relationship between literature and landscape, including Brian Lewis from Longbarrow Press.

Many artists have already combined use of technology with sense of place, for example Sarah Cole, who is pioneering the app Poetic Places with the British Library, and Mark Goodwin, who uses digital recording in conjunction with his poetry. Sarah Cole will be speaking at the symposium and Mark Goodwin will be giving a collaborative poetry performance with Matthew Clegg in an evening event. Sunday of the event will involve a guided artistic walk through Derbyshire’s countryside.

Modern technology, smart phones and social media mean this is not a world where language is depleting, but a world in which anyone can use such language to become an artist. Anyone has the ability to photograph nature and share his or her experiences at the click of a button. Technology and social media sites, particularly Twitter, allow a “democratising of literary production” and the ability to “take writing back out into the landscape”, which is what Dr Cooper strives for.

These technologies then, provoke a new engagement with nature, encouraging us to think differently about both nature and the artist holding the smartphone. Instead of placing landscape, literature and technology at odds, we must “harness the potential of these technologies” to create an artistic zone with nature at the forefront, even if that means seeing it through the screens of our smartphones.


You can read and listen to Mark Goodwin’s poetry here:

Digital Re-Enchantment: Place, Writing and Technology will take place on 11th and 12th June. For more details, see the Humanities in Public website:

This article was also featured in Humanity Hallows‘ print magazine, 3rd edition.HH article





Image: ‘Kinder Downfall’ by Paul Evans (from the ongoing ‘Seven Wonders’ series)

Vanilla Shakes? – Sexual Couple-dom and the Everyday

The penultimate event of Humanities in Public’s Sex strand explored sexual couple-dom and the everyday.

Dr Jacqui Gabb and Dr Jenny van Hooff

Dr Jacqui Gabb and Dr Jenny van Hooff

The modern perception is that finding love is perhaps the most important thing in life, and we will stop at nothing to find our happily-ever-after.

Little girls are surrounded with stories of finding their prince charming, and as we get older the pressures do not subside. Teenage boys are encouraged to have sex earlier and lots of it, whilst the girls they are doing it with are chastised. Going into adult life, millions of self-help books, articles, magazines, and even advertisements are telling us just how much sex we should be having and what constitutes and signifies a happy and working relationship, from children, to money, to the next must-have product.

Relationships are where we find most of our love, validation and comfort, whether that’s a heart to heart with your mother, a drink with your best friends, or a romantic dinner with your partner. And as we get older and the happily-ever-after we were promised is proving elusive, it’s no wonder self-help books are a $10 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone.

Many books have focussed on the ‘what not to do’s, looking at the various reasons relationships breakdown, from spending enough time together to how much sex a week you should be having.

However, in Dr Jacqui Gabb and Dr Meg John Barker’s book The Secrets of Enduring Love it says “it’s clear that there’s obviously no one-size-fits-all set of rules for doing relationships”. There’s no ‘the one’ and it’s not all happily-ever-after. Instead this book encourages readers to “find their own way” and find an answer tailored to their partner and their relationship.

Dr Jacqui Gabb, Professor of Sociology at the Open University, wanted to understand how couples last, because too many self-help books focus on what goes wrong. In her study Enduring Love Jacqui invited couples to come forward and answer questions about their relationships. Couples were asked to rank their relationship quality, level of maintenance the relationship needed, their happiness with the relationship, and their happiness in life more generally. Dr Gabb presented her findings at Humanities in Public’s Vanilla Shakes? event, convened by Dr Jenni van Hooff, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University.

A key finding of the study was that it is the everyday and mundane things that help relationships to survive: “so many answers included a cup of tea!”. Couples were asked what their partner does to make them feel appreciated and answers included “takes the bins out and clears up after dinner”, saying thank you, and “makes me a cup of tea” in recurring numbers. Maybe it’s not about how much sex you should have, but how many cups of tea you should make (we are British after all).

As relationships endured into the long term, these small gestures became more important than sexual intimacy, particularly for couples with children. These routine actions allowed couples to really share their lives together.

The important thing to note is that whilst these couples may have given very negative answers in some areas of the survey, they all considered their relationship to be working on some level, whether this was because of children, friends, family, or work. Jacqui described this as the “third leg on the stool” keeping couples standing.

Many couples made their relationships work whilst still leading very individual lives, and hardly seeing each other. And although this may not appear the ideal model of a relationship we have been persuaded to expect, who are we to judge what is a good, fulfilling and working relationship?

Jacqui believes that it is vital to teach not only sex education in schools but relationship education too, so that from a young age children begin to learn that: “Just because your relationship isn’t the same as everyone else’s, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Relationships change”.

The take-home message from this event was that relationships, like cups of tea, come in many different forms. It’s about finding what works for you, whether that’s two sugars or none.

Humanities in Public continue their events with a strand all about World. For more information go to: 

Dr James Cheng Grant Success

Dr James Cheng, Senior Lecturer in GIS (Geographic Information System) and Urban Planning, has achieved success in his grant application.

The British Academy’s Research Awards Committee have awarded Dr Cheng a small research grant for a project entitled ‘Inequities in the perceived environmental health risks and interventions in a fast developing country’. The project is led by Dr Cheng through collaboration with Prof Qiyan Wu at Nanjing Normal University, China.

Dr Cheng’s main research interests lie in urbanization in China, particularly its social and spacial implications, including inequity, segregation, urban sustainability and migration using GIS and other quantitative methods.

He says: “Chinese cities have experienced notorious environmental degradations, which have had considerable negative impact on residents’ health. This has stimulated an increase in public environmental awareness”.

“As people perceive, experience and prevent environmental pollutions differently, vulnerable and disadvantaged people may be exposed to higher levels of health risks than the rest. This raises an urgent question: do perceived environmental health risks and intervention demonstrate any inequities in Chinese cities?”.

Dr Cheng believes that “The answers to this question will contribute to the global theories of environmental injustice”.

Through the project, Dr Cheng aims to provide scientific and quantitative evidence for understanding the social and spatial inequities in perceived environmental health risks and interventions by producing a case study based on China.

He says “The research outcome is expected to influence central and local environment related policy making and people’s everyday life across China”.

Women in Media Conference 2016

7171cc_dff89c3b10834ed1b3038ad5fda0acbbStudents at the University of Manchester have organised a conference entitled Women in Media.

The conference aims to inspire young women to have faith in their abilities and strive for careers in media.

Elise Gallagher, a second year English language student and organiser of the event said: “As a member of the Mancunion newspaper I can already clearly see how dominated the field already is by men in these early stages. Talking to my fellow female editors, many expressed a slight discomfort to this, or mentioned that they almost didn’t apply for their position. We wanted to change this”.

The conference is being organised and run by a mostly-female team from the Manchester Media Group, the media wing of University of Manchester Students’ Union.

Elise said: “Myself, Polly Bartlett, Jennifer Sterne, Charlie Spargo and Marcus Johns (all active members of the Manchester Media Group) decided to organise the Women in Media in order to celebrate the work women in media have achieved and to also encourage those who would otherwise be dissuaded”.

“We are all aspiring to work within the media and have already come across obstacles as women at a student level, we aim to change this and empower confidence in other students to do the same”.

The event will be open to men, women, students and members of the public alike and will be a great networking opportunity for those hoping to pursue a career in the media. The event will feature many influential women who have succeeded in careers including journalism, television, filmmaking, radio, music, writing, blogging, photography, to conduct workshops and talks to guests. Speakers will include Jane Bradley from the immensely popular Buzzfeed, Sam Walker from Radio 5, and Daisy Buchanan from Grazia who will speak on feminism and fashion.

Elise concluded: “Ultimately we want to remove the stigma of “not being good enough” regardless of gender and encourage our attendees to give it a go”.

The Conference will take place at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in the weekend preceding International Women’s Day on the 8th of March 2016—from the evening of Friday the 4th to Sunday the 6th. Tickets range in price and can be booked for the separate constituent events making up the conference or for the weekend as a whole. Any profit will be donated to MASH (Manchester Action on Street Health). A small charity that provides long-lasting help to women involved in sex work.

More information and full line-ups can be found here:

Tickets can be purchased here:

@WomenInMediaCon #WIM16

Dangerous Associations: Joint Enterprise, Gangs and Racism

Dangerous AssociationsAnnual statistics uncritically present Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people as over-represented in the criminal justice system of England and Wales.

This ‘fact’ has often been misconstrued as indicating higher levels of criminal behaviour” says Patrick Williams, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Manchester Met.

Patrick Williams and Becky Clarke, also a Senior Lecturer in Sociology, launched a report on the subject at the end of last month entitled: ‘Dangerous Associations: Joint Enterprise, Gangs and Racism’. This project was funded by Barrow Cadbury and managed by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) and facilitated by the Campaign Organisation, JENGbA.

The report received national attention, attracting the consideration of 30 delegates in Manchester, 130 in London including academics from Cambridge, Brighton and London amongst others and 140 people at the House of Commons. Andrew Mitchell MP(Conservative), Andrew Slaughter MP (Labour), and Lord Beith (Lib Dem peer) chaired the event at the House of Commons. Also in attendance were Baroness Lola Young, Lord Ouseley, and families and friends of loved ones serving lengthy sentences, some of whom were absent when the offence was committed and weren’t involved in the offence. Ms Clarke was also interviewed for ITN News following the launch of the report alongside campaigner Jan Cunliffe.

Mr Williams said “What our research unearths are the processes through which racialised stereotypes and constructs of young BAME people as ‘crime-involved’ continues to dominate policing and prosecution strategies”.

“To illustrate, the research found that despite the overwhelming registration of young Black men to police gang databases, the majority of serious violence is committed by non-black people. ‘Dangerous Associations’ therefore shows how racialised attitudes results in the over-policing and criminalisation of young Black men through the ill-conceived construct of the ‘gang’. As a result, large numbers of young BAME people are currently serving lengthy custodial sentences – not for offences they have committed, but for their association with friends, family members or areas which are police-labelled as gang-involved or gang-related”.

“It is clear that strategies such as Joint Enterprise and other forms of collective punishment implemented to respond to gang will never be effective in reducing levels of serious violence in England and Wales”.

Following the report, there was cross party consensus that the use of Joint Enterprise is discriminatory, lazy and “an affront to justice”.


This was also published on the Manchester Metropolitan University website.

Ethnography in Action: Bouncers, Boxers and Drug Dealers

Three Manchester Met researchers are involved in an upcoming event with the BSA entitled ‘Ethnography in Action: Bouncers, Boxers and Drug Dealers’.

deborah jump - ethnography in action

Dr Deborah Jump boxing

Ethnographic data is essential for studying, observing, and identifying with a culture or community that one might not have previously been familiar with. Studying contemporary social life is essential to understanding who we are in the world and steering social change, particularly regarding policy and law.

Three Manchester Metropolitan University researchers from the department of Sociology are involved in an upcoming event with the British Sociological Association (BSA). The seminar series entitled ‘Ethnography in Action: Bouncers, Boxers and Drug Dealers’ will include the work of many academics from a variety of institutions in the North West about ethnographic research in the field of criminology.

Dr David Calvey, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University, will present his ethnographic data into bouncers and their illegal and deviant subcultures in the night-time economy of the UK. He said “bouncers are evocative and stereotyped figures but [this is also of interest] because the covert approach taken is unusual and innovative. The range of scandals from both investigative journalism and popular television programmes has also placed undercover work in the popular imagination.”

Calvey said: “There is a classic fear and fascination with undercover work because of the clear deception involved in it and the subsequent management of various ethical dilemmas. It is a highly emotive and controversial area of study. The most common fear is around the justification of deliberate deception.”

His work attracted a wide range of media attention on publication and has been subsequently quoted and reprinted in various methodology textbooks.

Dr Deborah Jump, Lecturer in Criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University, will also present her ethnographic account of North Town boxing gym: ‘They Didn’t Know Whether to Fight Me or F**k me’.

Dr Jump’s interest in boxing and young offender’s perceptions of violence stemmed from her own love of the sport: “For my PhD I became a boxer for 6 months during the time of the Olympics when women’s boxing first came into existence, or was recognized as an Olympic sport. Nicole Adams went on to win gold, as I’m sure you’re aware. Having been a youth worker for 10 years prior to being an academic I was really interested in how sport could be used for a vehicle for change among disenfranchised young people, this is why I chose the topic for my PhD research. It was as a result of this work that I was able to gain access into various boxing clubs in Manchester, some without women’s toilets(!) which is testament to the fact that it is only now being recognized as a valid sport for females”

Dr Jump aims to raise awareness that sport has an impact on all areas of life, not just health. She said: “Although the health benefits of sport are well established, the evidence for sport’s impact on education, crime, and community cohesion is limited and largely anecdotal.”

Also presenting at the event is Dr James Treadwell from the University of Birmingham, Dr Steve Wakeman from Liverpool John Moores University and Dr Mike Salinas, Lecturer in Criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University. Dr Salinas will be presenting his paper ‘An Ethnography of Drug Markets and Youth Transitions’.

The seminar series aims to demonstrate the relevance and impact of ethnographic research to academics and policy makers. Dr Calvey said “Although covert ethnography clearly occupies a niche position in criminology, it is a necessary part of the criminological imagination.”


The Early Career Forum Regional event will also include a round-table discussion, wine reception and a book launch. It will take place on Wednesday 13th April, 10am – 4pm and will cost £10 for members of the BSA and £25 for non-members. Tickets can be booked here.

This was also published on the Manchester Metropolitan University website.

Creativity: In Place of War

‘Creativity: In Place of War’, a panel discussion with In Place of War, communicated the necessity of artistic output in countries of extreme violence and conflict.

Ruth Daniel speaking about 'How to Make Something from Nothing'

Ruth Daniel speaking about ‘How to Make Something from Nothing’

In times of conflict, we often look to the past for guidance, to the work of Bertolt Brecht, Wilfred Owen, and Samuel Beckett. Even since the times of Ancient Greece, where violence was not depicted on stage but merely talked about, humans have constantly been trying to learn “what to do with violence when we live in a violent world”.

Professor James Thompson, founder and co-director of In Place of War has been working on art in sites of violence throughout his research in Applied and Social Theatre at The University of Manchester. The project aims to mobilise art and artists to achieve social change in countries of contemporary conflict. The idea for In Place of War began when Thompson was working in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, in 2000 at the time of the civil war. He was met with “a vibrant, dynamic and really a very different artistic community”.In Place of War was “born out of a hunch” that this was going on in other contemporary conflict zones. The project mobilises, empowers, and connects creative communities worldwide, whilst “learning from artists living in contemporary conflict zones”. The project’s interest is in art within sites of “hot active violence, and what happens when artists are displaced”.

Since then, In Place of War has collaborated the work of over 280 artists, 300 organisations from 38 countries. Thompson witnessed a diverse range of artistic projects worldwide: “if you’re sitting in a war zone you don’t do a play about war”. Instead, the projects captured “laughter and celebration in zones of ugliness and destruction” in a remarkable and uplifting antithesis.

Art can help humans survive in the worst of situations.

However, many dangerous and conflict-ridden countries across the world have little access to resources. James explained that in some places, due to curfews and other restrictions, some dance forms have almost entirely died out due to war. Ruth Daniel, co-director of In Place of War and “global force of nature”, has worked to ensure this is not the case. Ruth has over 11 years’ experience working to create cultural spaces in over 40 countries, providing a safe place for creativity in some of the world’s most marginalised places despite limited access to resources. These places have a “blank canvas” upon which we can mark social change using Daniel’s equation: “Technology + Art + Humans = Change”. She describes herself as “activist, artist, and cultural producer”.

Ruth’s talk, ‘How to Make Something from Nothing’, took her audience on a journey around the world, first visiting her “favourite city in the world”: Medellin, Colombia. Since 1987, over 40 000 young people ages 14 to 24 have been murdered in Medellin due to drugs, gang warfare and paramilitary enlistment. This area was home to the infamous Pablo Escobar: ‘king of Cocaine’. The city’s dangerous climate has become the subject of a book by Alonso Salazar titled ‘Born to Die in Medellin’.

However, a hip-hop movement began in the city, inspired by Public Enemy, a political hip-hop group based in New York. This gave young people an alternative. Lupa, MC and producer for Sociedad FB7, a hip-hop group from Medellin, explained, “if it weren’t for hip-hop I would be dead. Hip-hop gave me another option in life, I will always be grateful for that”. This hip-hop movement allowed “identity and expression without gang violence”, and gave young men an opportunity to talk about their everyday realities. Daniel described hip-hop as a form of “grass roots resistance”, which has had a role and an impact everywhere in the world, from Colombia to Croyden: “everywhere there is a hot bed of creative talent”.

Daniel hailed social media for a similar reason, quoting Rami El Fass, who sculpts out of recycled materials, who said “without art and social media the Egyptian revolution would not have been possible”. During the 2011 revolution, Facebook was used to schedule protests, Twitter to co-ordinate and YouTube to tell the world. Daniel’s assessment of social media as a way of “galvanising people” marked the event’s place as the penultimate event in the Humanities in Public War strand, following on from the Photobomb series.

However, regardless of the technology that mobilises us, “humans are the most powerful”: “when humans work together, everything is possible”. Ruth left the audience with an inspirational quote from Ewok, a spoken word artist, who said “Can poetry change the world? Poetry can change people, and people can change the world”.

Another example of the role of art in countries of conflict is capoeira, a Brazilian martial art, dance and game. Zoë Marriage, from SOAS, gave an insight into the political economy surrounding the art-form, describing it as “the art of total resistance”. The martial art developed in slave populations in Brazil in the 19th century. The Brazilian state tried to ban the practice in the 20th century in an attempt to stamp out Afro-Brazilian identities. However, by continuing to practice capoeira players denied state power. They reclaimed identity and “retold history”. Marriage reflects that art is “where people can find themselves”, and this “is a source of strength”.

In Place of War continue to help art to become a form of strength and a political tool to people in the most destitute of places. Ruth Daniel tells me about In Place of War’s future work: “It can be split into 3 strands, creating cultural spaces, mobilising equipment, and mobilising artists”. The project will focus on Bukavu, in the Eastern Congo, West Bank in Palestine, and Mokokoba in Zimbabwe, which suffers from ‘desperate poverty’, HIV aids, and maternal and infant mortality. The project will “mobilise equipment from the UK and take it to places where this is less available”, for example in their Creative Entrepreneurial Programme, which aims to “help people make businesses out of their creativity”. In Place of War aims to unite and mobilise artists, UK and International, and will work this year to “bring over international female musicians” to meet female musicians here in an exchange of learning.

The “tentacles of war” reach from places of conflict to cities further away: contemporary conflict is a global issue. The artistic movements of the past have shown that much great art comes out of climates of conflict, trouble, and social unrest. Mobilising art even in some of the world’s most troubled places is becoming increasingly important in a world that is only becoming increasingly violent. By looking at the art of today in some of the world’s most troubled places, we can learn from each other.

In the words of Daniel, “art is powerful” – for social change, for laughter, and for strength.


This was also published on the Manchester Metropolitan University website.

This event was part of Humanities in Public’s WAR strand.