Hard lines : affect and aging in post-industrial place




Farrell, Christopher H.

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The landscape of contemporary Britain is littered with towns and villages in various states of post-industrial decline and recovery: fishing villages reinvented as holiday destinations; old steel towns where the only reliable work to be found is in call centers; erstwhile potteries where you can buy an entire row of houses for a pound; and, of course, coal towns and pit villages that never recovered from Thatcherism. Outside of the major cities, these are the nation’s ordinary spaces. Through a tight ethnographic focus on a particular social world which exists at the margins of one such place – a bowls club in a former mining town in County Durham – this dissertation explores the affective experience of living amid the ordinary ruinousness of post-industrial Britain. Specifically, this dissertation is concerned with the way interactions with decaying space are shaped and mediated by aging bodies. This experience, I assert here, is characterized by ‘intensified attachments and cascading detachments’ – by deeply felt ambivalences. In attending to the expressed desires and small complaints of a group of (mostly) elderly men, this dissertation examines the uses and consequences – large and small; positive and negative; personal and political – of nostalgic discourse in this place, and elaborates a social world in which the past and its attachments are ever-present. What follows is an account of the messiness of post-industrial living and old age – the muddled affects and conflicting stories that result from a synchronous decline.



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