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White Trash Vocationalism? Formations of Class and Race in an Essex Further Education College

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This article examines the role of vocational curricular in the formation of class and ‘whiteness’ and its implications for educational progression. Using the concept of racialisation I discuss how the formation of white racialisation has often been linked to processes of class formation, crisis and development of the welfare state. However, within this framework there needs to be some sensitivity to locality and how forms of whiteness are deployed as ‘class strategy’. Based on an ethnographic study in an Essex further education (FE) college, I show how vocational students are regulated in ways that correspond to working class ‘differently white’ identities as compared to notions of ‘respectable whiteness’ attached to students on academic tracks. In Bourdieu's terms the cultural capital of white, working class, students is valued differently by the college. Negative ascriptions also cut across those of non-white ethnicity, delineating on the basis of class and serving to discriminate further against ethnic minorities. The article concludes by assessing the ways in which colleges selectively accommodate cultural forms of resistance employed by working class vocational students. I additionally discuss the limitations of an approach based on ‘new ethnicities’ and ‘discourse’ alone in constructing a practical project for educators interested in access or widening participation. The realization of social justice aims, such as those implicit in widening participation strategies, requires a re-engagement with class and racialisation as materially and historically-based phenomena.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2003

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  • The journal is based on the belief that there are neglected links between research and theory, and policy and practice in the promotion of widening participation in post-compulsory education and lifelong learning. It aims to provide a forum for the development of theory, the addressing of policy questions and the dissemination of innovative practice in the field of widening participation and lifelong learning.
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