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Identity, community and community cohesion : a critical engagement with policy discourses and the everyday

Worley, Claire Louise (2006) Identity, community and community cohesion : a critical engagement with policy discourses and the everyday. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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    Abstract

    Using three different methods, this thesis critically explores New Labour policy
    discourses of community cohesion, alongside and in relation to, the construction and
    performance of gendered and racialised identities in a northern England town. The
    research is located at the intersection of feminist theory, critical race studies and critical
    social policy, and draws upon post structuralist approaches. Through an examination of
    community cohesion policy texts and in depth interviews with policy actors (used to
    refer to a diverse group of participants in the policy process), I consider how discourses
    of community cohesion are negotiated and constructed within the policy making
    process. I also explore how these policy stories contribute to gendered and racialised
    constructions of local 'communities'. Drawing upon ethnographic research conducted
    within a 'multicultural' women's group, I consider how communities and identities are
    negotiated and lived out in the 'everyday', and -in turn how these community stories
    both challenge and connect with community cohesion policy stories and policy actors'
    constructions of communities.

    My findings suggest that community cohesion can be understood as part of the wider
    New Labour project, drawing upon the ambiguous concept of 'community' central to the
    agenda of the 'Third Way'. My analysis of community cohesion policy texts indicate that
    whilst discourses of community cohesion are presented as a coherent agenda, they are
    multiple and muddled. The search for a set of common 'British' values alongside the
    management of diversity relies upon notions of integration, which resonate with
    attempts at assimilation. Moreover, my findings suggest that whilst gender blind,
    community cohesion policy discourses are deeply gendered and racialised, contributing
    to particular constructions of race and gender 'difference'. Nevertheless, it is evident
    that discourses of community cohesion have become rapidly entrenched within the
    language and practice of local government and local practitioners, bringing with it a
    'new' framework governing race relations in the UK.

    My analysis of policy actors' interpretations of community cohesion policy points to the
    complexities facing policy actors engaged in 'making sense' of government policies;
    alongside and in relation to their personal and professional identifications. My findings
    suggest that New Labour discourses of 'community cohesion' enable practitioners to
    adopt a safer form of de-racialised language to talk about issues of race and ethnicity.
    Yet policy actors are also active in the construction of 'expert' knowledge about
    'communities', which at times draw upon 'common sense' ideas. These narratives of
    'community' and 'identity' often deny the ambiguous nature of identities and the
    'messiness' of 'doing community' within the 'everyday'. Indeed, the findings from my
    ethnographic research conducted with women from different racial and ethnic
    positionings emphasise the multiple, complex and contradictory ways in which
    gendered and racialised identities are performed within and across 'communities'.
    These 'everyday' stories of 'community' both complicate and disrupt policy actors'
    narratives of community and the community cohesion policy agenda, whilst at the same
    time suggesting alternative ways of 'getting along' (see also Amin, 2005).

    Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
    Additional Information: EThOS Persistent ID uk.bl.ethos.438068
    Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
    J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
    Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
    Depositing User: Graham Stone
    Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2009 10:28
    Last Modified: 28 Jul 2010 19:48
    URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/5975

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