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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 09:28
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2014 10:36
URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/5975

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