Ethnic Segregation, Moral Panics and Social Class: A Comparative Study of the Experiences and Perspectives of Working Class and Middle Class Children in Belfast

Paul Connolly

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Abstract

This paper begins by describing the moral panics that have tended to emerge sporadically in Northern Ireland over the last few years with regard to young people’s involvement in sectarian violence in Belfast. Within this, while these young people have been cast in the traditional role of folk devils, the paper will show how younger children also tend to be explicitly identified and named in an ambiguous way through such moral panics; playing a deviant role as participators, and sometimes instigators, of sectarian violence but also carrying the symbolic responsibility of representing Belfast’s future. It will be shown that it is because of this ambiguous position that it is adults rather than the children themselves that tend to be held responsible for their actions; either as rioters using the children as political pawns or as parents guilty of neglect. With this as a starting point the paper then explores the perspectives and experiences of two groups of 10-11 year old children living in Belfast and the impact of these moral panics on them. One group of children, living in affluent middle class areas were found to be appropriating and re-working these broader moral panics into more general discourses of derision that tended to pathologize working class children and communities more generally. For the other group of children, living in economically deprived areas with high levels of sectarian tensions and violence, their experiences of such violence and their participation in it are discussed. It will be shown that for these children, the broader moral panics that exist tend to have the effect of reinforcing the processes that tend to segregate and exclude them.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008
EventAmerican Educational Research Association Annual Meeting - New York, New York, United States
Duration: 24 Mar 200828 Apr 2008

Conference

ConferenceAmerican Educational Research Association Annual Meeting
CountryUnited States
CityNew York
Period24/03/200828/04/2008

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