‘Between authenticity and pretension’: parents', pupils' and young professionals' negotiations of minority ethnic middle-class identity

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Abstract

Despite an increasing sociological interest in the middle classes and their educational practices, research has largely concentrated on the white middle classes. This paper considers the case of the minority ethnic (ME) middle classes through empirical data from a small, exploratory study conducted in England with 36 minority ethnic, ‘middle-class’ individuals (parents, pupils and young professionals) from a range of ME backgrounds. It is argued that participants experienced ME middle-class identity as a profoundly conflictual and precarious space, negotiated through a matrix of relational classed and racialized positionings. ‘Authentic’ middle-classness remains the preserve of white society due to racial inequalities and the dominance of whiteness as the popularly legitimated marker of middle classness. Moreover, attempts to define an acceptable, legitimate and principled ME middle-class identity are compromised by the discursive threats of ‘inauthenticity’, ‘pretension’ and ‘misrecognition’.

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