When Recognition Fails: Mass Observation Project Accounts of Not Belonging

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This article examines British Mass Observation Project (MOP) accounts written by people who say that they have struggled with belonging. The main focus lies on acts of misrecognition that occur within everyday relationships, and the impact that the ensuing relational non-belonging has had on the MOP writers’ sense of self. The concept of ‘invisible strangers’ is developed to account for experiences of misrecognition that are perceived to be the result of individualised characteristics such as personality rather than categorical membership such as ethnicity. The process does not, however, end with the self; being misrecognised engenders feelings about others, which play an important role in how people experience relational non-belonging. I therefore propose extending social interactionist accounts of the relational self by exploring self–other feelings that involve not only how a person believes s/he is viewed and judged by others, but also how that person evaluates the selves of others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)748-763
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


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