Reconfiguring Class and Community: An Ethnographic Study in East Manchester.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis provides an ethnographic account of post-industrial life in East Manchester, a locality which has undergone repeated waves of regeneration. The neighbourhoods of Beswick and Openshaw were once located at the heart of manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution but have since undergone deep social and economic change in the twentieth century which has resulted in widespread unemployment and perceived ‘social deprivation’. In 2000, New Labour introduced a regeneration plan to create ‘New East Manchester’ with the hope that material transformation would bring about economic growth and social change by creating a cohesive community and a productive and profitable space in the post-industrial city. This research, however, demonstrates that for long-standing residents, the relationship between redevelopment and change is more complex than this simple formula may suggest. Despite millions of pounds of investment and radical physical transformation, long-standing residents argue that East Manchester is dislocated and characterised by an overwhelming sense of uncertainty about the future.The thesis draws on twelve months of residential, ethnographic fieldwork carried out in 2010. It focuses on a group of older, female, long-standing residents and explores the issues which are important to them which include neighbourhood risk, memories of the past, gift exchange, housing and political alienation. For these residents, change is understood in terms of unpredictability and inequality. Images of a stable past are drawn upon in order to articulate anger and frustration against mainstream politics and feelings of social exclusion. On the surface, it appears that social life has declined and community has fractured due to the pressures of economic and social change but, on further examination, it is clear that intense social relations and attachments to East Manchester continue to exist. In order to understand the apparent contradiction between narratives of community decline and observations of social relations which are evident in East Manchester, this thesis argues that it is necessary to re-examine concepts of community, belonging and class which are presented in the anthropology of Britain literature.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Manchester
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2014


  • Community
  • Social Class
  • Anthropology
  • Urban Regeneration
  • Belonging
  • Manchester


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