Shared ‘sweets’, shared fights: emotional labour and everyday multiculture

22/02/2017, 16:00 - 17:15

Through a study of three intergenerational community heritage projects, this paper explores the forms of emotional labour that living with structural violence in Cardiff demands from some minority women. While Cardiff is ‘one of the oldest multicultural communities in Britain’ (Runnymede 2012), deep patterns of inequality here have been retraced by new migration, retrenched by austerity, and reshaped by neoliberal development (Threadgold et al. 2008; Emejulu and Bassel 2015; McRobbie 2007). In the intergenerational oral histories, art and media produced in these heritage projects, older and young women describe how they cope with and respond to old and new forms of structural violence. I argue that these forms of structural violence are driven by liberal, white, middle class desires for ‘community cohesion’ (Fortier 2010) and for feel-good, convivial multiculture and diversity (Ahmed 2011) as much as by more explicit stigma or racism. In this paper, I focus on how older women recommend ‘mixing’ and sharing ‘sweet’ feelings to a create a sense of community; mourning lost lifeways, jobs and neighbourhoods; disciplining unruly anger and pain of experiences of racism into fight and collective struggle; and managing white feelings to protect themselves from the potential violence of ‘white fragility’ (DiAngelo 2011) at work, in institutions, and in the heritage projects themselves. I explore how, for the young women, these older troubles mix with new neoliberal pressures to fashion mobile, successful selves as the right kind of ‘becoming young women’ (McRobbie 2007). My paper asks how these labours feel to the women who do them and what their accounts show about whose labour underwrites more just and convivial futures.

Alida Payson is a PhD candidate in the school of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University.

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