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Britain in Fragments (Or, Why Boris?)

I was living in Washington, DC when Donald Trump won the 2016 US Presidential Election. In the days following, I wrote an essay titled, ‘Why Trump? (Or America in Fragments). The UK is a completely different place, with an entirely different political system and culture. But I kept returning to thoughts I had back then, about a nation fragmented. So I wrote them down: 


People want answers. On social media timelines, in newspapers and blogs, across dinner tables and at the pub, people are despairing that Boris Johnson is PM; the Conservatives back in power. People are asserting singular causes: it was Corbyn. Brexit. The media. London-centrism. Facebook. Disaffection. Fear.

The reality is more complex. There is no single person, group, strategy miscalculation, or media moment responsible for this outcome. Ignore the thousand Think Pieces and #THREADS saying otherwise. In the face of a desperately bleaker future, certainty is dangerous. It lets us look away from more complicated, more challenging, truths. 

In some cases, people voted Conservative because they saw no viable alternative. That was not the majority instinct. Millions wanted this outcome. Across income levels, across constituencies – those that Labour lost and those it never had – Britain elected Boris. Telling ourselves lets the nation off the hook. 

Other writers are debating Labour Party strategy failings and rebuilding plans; scrutinising and pontificating over where it all went wrong; which new leader might get it right. I want to ask a different question: “What kind of society wants Boris Johnson, wants this Conservative Party, to lead it?” 

To understand the election we must be open to a complex, even contradictory, set of answers. We must look at the state of the nation, not the state of Parties. That nation – our Disunited Kingdom – can only be understood in fragments.

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Publication: Notes on a Postcard

Postcard on display at the Exchanging Cultures of Equality exhibitionA new piece of writing, published by the brilliantly imaginative and dedicatedly Open Access people over at AllegraLab, which focuses on postcards. These enduring objects, as much anthropological as they are popular, have played a notable role in colonialism, activism, & transnational communication. In this essay, I discuss how we’re using postcards “as a research method, as a communication device and as exhibition objects” in the GlobalGRACE project. 

Check out the article here: “Notes on a Postcard” AllegraLab, October 2, 2019.

In praise of the TSR Writing Retreat

I have just returned home from an intensive-yet-relaxing two and a half day writing retreat at The Gladstone Library in Hawarden, organised by The Sociological Review. Now in its fourth year, the retreat is designed for early career researchers with places awarded on a competitive basis that priorities scholars from communities that are under-represented in academia. It is an extremely useful and important initiative, reflecting well on TSR that it is focusing its resources on supporting emerging scholars rather than more high-profile events.

Despite the blistering heat, the combination of dedicated writing time, relaxing walks in the countryside, great food and isolation from the 24-hour news cycle has been immeasurably useful. Not only have I been “productive” in terms of writing, but I have also been stimulated by colleagues working on exciting topics across a variety of disciplines, all connected to sociology – and pushing its boundaries. It has been a welcome temporary break from anthropology-heavy recent experiences, and one that finds me returning home with a new-found determination not necessarily to write more, but certainly to take more joy in the process, appreciate collegiate communities, and feel confident in my own work.

Red Pepper: Battles for Survival

RP Summer 2019 CoverOur extremely timely latest issue of Red Pepper takes a dual focus on two of the most pressing issues of our time: climate emergency and the rise of the far-right.

The Culture Section features a diverse set of takes on independent music, from a co-op venue in Bristol to anti-fascist and feminist music festivals in Manchester and Washington, D.C., to a revealing interview with London-based rapper Lowkey.

AnthroBites: NGOs



After handing over the reigns to Dr Jara Carrington for a great episode on Queer Anthropology, and to Ruthie Flynn for an insightful intro to Hunters & Gatherers, I’m back in the Producer role for our latest bite-sized overview of a key concept in anthropology: NGOs. I spoke to Dr Mark Schuller about the foremothers and groundbreakers in feminist anthropology, and about the politics of citations.

Click here for resources, links, additional background, and episode transcript. Earlier episodes, on Feminist AnthropologySovereignty and on Scientific Racism are also available at the Society for Cultural Anthropology.

Red Pepper: Feminist Futures

RP cover, spring 2019Immensely proud of our latest issue of Red Pepper, which takes an extensive look at feminist futures, presents and pasts.

The Culture Section addresses Museums from a number of important perspectives, from the importance of decolonising and dissenting methodologies, to industrial actions protecting our institutions, to an appreciative exploration of the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

Red Pepper: New Unions

RP cover, winter 2018In the latest Red Pepper, we focus on exciting new strategies embraced by unions in and beyond the UK, and discuss the rise and impact of Brazil’s new right-wing President.

The Culture Section is on Cinema, with excellent pieces on new films Sorry to Bother You and Peterloo as well as an in-depth look at The Star & Shadow, a community-run cinema in Newcastle embracing a DIY ethos.