White like them: Whiteness and anachronistic space in representations of the English white working class

Steph Lawler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Themes of whiteness have informed many recent discussions of English national identity, yet the whiteness in question is attached to some groups but not others. In particular, whiteness is emblematically attached to members of the white working class, so that the whiteness of the middle classes becomes obscured. This paper is concerned with representations of white working-class people in the context of recent media and other discussions of English national identity. Hence, it is concerned not with the actions or sentiments of working-class people themselves, but with their positioning (by middle-class commentators) within an economy of cultural meaning around definitions of nation, multiculturalism and identity. Using press discussion of the BBC's 'White Season' as a framing device, I argue that whiteness has come to be a signifier of white working-class existence. In this context, 'white' has shifted its meaning from something normal, normative and unmarked - Dyer's 'ordinary whiteness/whiteness as ordinary' - to a marked - and markedly problematic - category that is applied only to some white people, who become bearers of 'extreme whiteness'. This marking is linked with a positioning in the past, so that white working-class people can be marked as inhabiting 'anachronistic space'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-426
Number of pages18
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


  • Whiteness
  • Class
  • White Season
  • Modernity
  • Progress
  • Anachronistic time

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