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Publication - Professor Dale Southerton

    Boundaries of 'Us' and 'Them'

    Class, mobility and identification in a new town


    Southerton, D, 2002, ‘Boundaries of 'Us' and 'Them': Class, mobility and identification in a new town’. Sociology, vol 36., pp. 171-193


    Whether social class shapes identification (senses of belonging to specified social groups) is subject to much debate. This article examines the boundaries of identification described by three groups living in a Southern English new town. The three groups systematically differed in their volumes of economic, cultura' and social resources, and patterns of geographical mobility. Members identified themselves as belonging within each group through interpretations of shared social practices and orientations toward everyday life. Boundaries drawn between 'Us' and 'Them' by all three groups were based on generic social categorizations of class and expressed through socio-economic, cultural and moral frameworks of status evaluation. However identifications were asymmetrical because two groups, the closest in terms of resource volumes, differentiated from one another despite employing the same frameworks for evaluating status. Internal differences were also apparent in the third group: those who had lived in the area longest offered greater degrees of specificity and certainty when identifying 'Us', it is argued that the relationship between class and identification is not straightforward. In this case, the organization of the town's social relations, with its normative conventions and local reputations, coupled with respondents' different patterns of geographical mobility acted to configure interpretations of who constituted 'Us' and 'Them'.

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