Reading, Writing Class and Caste
Conversations on class in Britain tend to be myopic and one-dimensional; in some contexts, race is left out and class is foregrounded, with rhetoric like, ‘it’s not about race, it’s about class’ (as if working class PoC do not exist). In other contexts, when race is foregrounded, there is blindness to inequalities of class and caste, equalising all PoC in a way that just perpetuates privilege and tokenism. Then, there is the dangerous way is which the white working class is used as a scapegoat and explanation for racism.
Literature about class is equally complex: there are one-dimensional and deeply classist representations created by a privileged elite, there are working-class narratives that are hijacked and shaped by an elite publishing industry with its own agenda, and there can be internalised shame and classism of the the working class writers – expressed through narratives about individual success, social mobility and left behind working-class communities.
There is also the question of accessibility; who is being spoken to, the language used, the perspective taken in the literature itself – what kinds of articulations are heard and recognised. This panel brings together a group of writers and activists who have thought deeply about these matters, who have analysed the intersections of race and class and caste in ways that help us move forward from simplistic rhetoric, creating spaces for representation by, within and for working class communities.