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Race, affect, and emotion: young people, racism, and graffiti in the postcolonial English suburbs

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Anoop Nayak


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The majority of studies on young people, race, and racism have focused upon multiethnic inner-city areas. This can have the unintended effect of locating the 'problem' of race within the sites where ethnic minorities reside and upon their racially marked bodies. To disrupt this way of looking I attempt to turn the geography of racism 'inside out' by recognising the predominantly white English suburbs as a complex site of emotion where racist graffiti, violence, and social deprivation may preside. Here, it is suggested that a 'global sense of place' can be evoked through a postcolonial reading of the suburbs and used to unsettle the familiar emotional-laden landscapes of whiteness. Secondly, through ethnography with young people who self-identify as a Skinhead gang, I seek to provide a meaningful geography of racism that engages with emotion, bodily encounters, and events as they become charged with feeling and affect. Thirdly, the ethnography considers the practice of whiteness and white territoriality. In these encounters race and racism are approached as an event or happening that may be given material weight through inscriptions of racist graffiti, emotional sentiments regarding ideas of white suburban belonging, and physical manifestations of popular racism. I conclude that studies of race and racism need to better engage with the visceral way in which affect and emotion seep into the lives of young people and enable the idea of race to pass from immanence to emergence in daily encounters.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nayak A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning A

Year: 2010

Volume: 42

Issue: 10

Pages: 2370-2392

Print publication date: 04/03/2010

ISSN (print): 0308-518X

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3409

Publisher: Pion Ltd.


DOI: 10.1068/a42177


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