Vitalities Lab: Lost England? A Post-Brexit Sociological Travelogue

This talk attempts to counter what has been the headlong rush by many commentators to characterise the current Brexit situation in terms of some sort of tectonic bifurcation between ‘two Englands’ – what Goodhart has controversially characterised as the Anywheres versus the Somewheres – ‘two tribes’ living in, what political scientists Jennings and Stoker describe as, cosmopolitan and backwater destinations. There is little doubt that some neighbourhoods can be found that do conform to these archetypes. However, in the great majority of localities things are far more complex. This talk is premised on the very simple idea that if we want to a more balanced sense of what is happening in contemporary England then we need a far broader purview. If contemporary geodemographic classifications suggest that we can analytically identify almost 70 different types of neighbourhood, then it is clear that we need to explore a far more varied set of locations than is usually the case in order to get a better measure of what has happened to the country. With this thought in mind, I am about to set out on a long sojourn across England visiting the field sites of a carefully selected set of classic sociological studies carried out from the 1950s onwards. These studies, although located within particular places, all came to have a profound impact on broader understandings of social issues more generally. We could perhaps think of such studies as being located within ‘touchstone’ places; fieldwork sites that might be worth revisiting if one were in in search of a contemporary sociological understanding of England.

Roger Burrows is Professor of Cities, Newcastle University, UK & Visiting Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. His most recent book is the co-authored The Predictive Postcode (Sage, 2018) and he has just completed a study of residential mega-basement development in central London.

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