Young Adulthood and the Negotiation of Race

As part of the sociology seminar series here at Glasgow University, we had the pleasure of hosting Dr Bethan Harries (University of Manchester) from CoDE – Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity. Bethan gave a paper entitled ‘Young Adulthood and the Negotiation of Race in Contemporary Britain’. You can find the abstract for the paper below as well as an audio recording of her presentation.

Western cities are becoming more ethnically diverse and in many places becoming more youthful. The relationship between youth, young adulthood and race is undergoing significant social change. While some cogent areas of research such as education studies and cultural studies have maintained a focus on race and ethnicity, in youth and young adulthood studies more widely, ‘post-subculture’, race has been significantly absent (Harries et al forthcoming). This represents an oversight in social research.  This paper draws on research with young adults and examines their relationship to and experience of living in a post-industrial cosmopolitan city. The city enables us to recognise the multiple ways in which racism manifests and explores the paradox that becomes apparent when the contemporary city is imagined as a tolerant multicultural space, i.e. beyond race, but is also a space through which race is reproduced. The paper considers how these conflicting processes are dealt with by young adults and examines the effects of the disjuncture between rhetoric and reality; between people’s lived experience (of discrimination, racism and unequal treatment) and the growing discourse that says race no longer matters. Crucially, it considers whether strategies to silence race make it difficult to name racism, rather than working, as is sometimes the implied intention, as an anti-racist device.