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19. Bev Skeggs: Feminism and class

 

shutterstock_121083523woman-typewriterBev Skeggs came to Manchester as a professor in 1999 and was head of department from 2001-2004. Her work has focused particularly on questions of gender and class. Her examination of respectability and the gendered and classed identities of a group of white working class women (in Formations of Class and Gender: becoming respectable 1997) has been highly influential in feminist and class scholarship.

Whilst at Manchester, Bev Skeggs followed this book with Class, Self, Culture (2004) which returned to the question of class, with more of a focus on middle class culture. The book examines how class is made and given value through culture and tracks the relationship between class and the self and the devaluation of working class cultures and selves. Drawing on a wide range of theoretical approaches, Skeggs argues that class is deployed as both a resource (which can be used) and form of property (which can be exchanged). She also explores how class is constructed through other categorisations of race, gender, nation and sexuality. Skeggs argues that the middle classes can be more mobile in terms of class and ‘play’ with forms of class attachments, and with working class cultures. However, the working class are seen as fixed or stuck – only able to be themselves or risk failure or accusations of pretentiousness.

In 2002, an important conference called ‘Feminists evaluate Bourdieu’ was held at Manchester and resulted in a volume, Feminism After Bourdieu (2005) edited by Lisa Adkins (also in the Department) and Bev Skeggs. The volume evaluated the relevance of Bourdieu’s understanding of class from a feminist perspective and argued for the extension of some key Bourdieuesian categories (such as class capitals and habitus) to incorporate feminist concerns.

 

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