Respectability and Resistance: Interview With Prof. Beverly Skeggs

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At Redemption Blues. Here is the intro:

In the comfortable armchairs of the first floor café in Paperchase (Tottenham Court Road), fuelled by a tall latte I had the honour of meeting and interviewing one of Britain’s foremost experts on social class, Professor Beverley Skeggs, whose extensive publications form an invaluable resource for any feminist curious about the interplay of gender, culture and symbols in creating, consolidating and contesting identity. No transcript can do justice to Professor Skeggs’ enthusiasm, immediacy, humour and warmth, which made the experience highly pleasurable as well as informative.

And here’s a short excerpt:

Les Moran, who I worked with, had brought me on to these fantastic feminist legal theorists such as Margaret Davies. They are really interesting on how the proper literally gets produced in law through legal statements and who has to show themselves in front of law. If you’re deemed improper, say you’re a prostitute, which is the key example, you have no legal protection. The law doesn’t work for you.

He put me onto these really fascinating legal ways of thinking through the proper, which extended the material on respectability. That is why I am now interested in how a lot of reality TV is all about having the proper emotions. What we get is this incredible forensic emphasis on people’s faces, so that they are watched to see how they emote and do they emote properly? This is what I am attempting to capture at the moment.

I also think it is a really powerful political opening out, which makes so visible the improper. It makes those who don’t know how to do it in the kind of respectable, bourgeois way look really, really bad. Jerry Springer is the best example of people emoting very, very badly. They punch other people. Violence is the wrong emotion. Part of the fascination is that we don’t usually in real life spend that much time looking at people’s emotions and if they emote too much we look away, we would be embarrassed or whatever else, but we can voyeuristically watch it on TV. We are getting it not only shown, but we’re getting to know exactly what it should be.

I hate reality TV itself, or, to be more precise, I hate some of it, which is so badly formulaic, cheap and nasty and I ask myself”Can’t you find another victim to pick on?”It is pretty banal, but Deleuze argues that what we will never know, in any encounter, is the affect that is produced through the encounter. We won’t understand what is cause, what is effect and it’s always circulating, creating, troubling relationships. What reality TV does is to try to capture all that and say,”If you behave like that, you will produce that bad emotion”. It’s so seductive in that sense. It gives people bad psychology and makes them think that if they use these techniques they can manipulate people. The key programmes here are the motherhood ones, such as Supernanny. …

Via Philobiblon.

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0 Responses to Respectability and Resistance: Interview With Prof. Beverly Skeggs

  1. abrophy says:

    Along these lines, I would also recommend Lisa Cardyn’s brilliant, book-length article, “Sexualized Racism/Gendered Violence: Outraging the Body Politic in the Reconstruction South,” which appeared in volume 100 of the Michigan Law Review in 2002. Cardyn links recent research on sexual violence during war to violence (against both men and women) in the south during Reconstruction. Among the many virtues of her study is its grounding in a close reading of the voluminous testimony before Congressional committees about the first Klan.