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Hanging Town, Haunted City: Researching Connected Sociologies of Colonial Capitalism in Place

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


In June 2020, hundreds gathered in Lancaster’s Dalton Square to participate in a vigil in response to the Black Lives Matter uprisings. Over the weeks that followed, the protests focused on Lancaster ‘s St George’s Quay, (where Lancaster Slave Ships departed for the African coast in the mid 18th century), and a prominent grave memorial to a Lancaster slave trading and slave-owning family was defaced. These protests where “haunting” in Avery Gordon’s sense, in that they made a repressed and ‘unresolved violence’ newly visible. In the case of Lancaster this has involved a significant new reckoning with the city’s history as an 18th century port town that was at the centre of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade and West-Indies Plantation trade. Amid this reckoning a new community group, Lancaster Black History, was founded, describing itself as a movement not a moment, and committed to fighting racism through education. In this talk I will introduce some of my work as a member Lancaster Black History Group over the last 18 months. In my recent book, Stigma: the Machinery of Inequality (2020), I examined how histories of Slavery and Colonialism can radically de-centre sociological theories and concepts grounded in modernity. Here, I will consider how sociological methods of working with these histories within communities can deepen and enrich public understandings of social injustice. As Avery Gordon has argued, sociology must consider not only what is visible and present, but also what is absent and lost, and this includes “forced disappearances” of people, knowledge and things from our understanding of the history of the places in which we live. I will argue that grappling with these ghosts is essential for making sense of and resisting the new kinds of capitalist enclosures and attendant inequalities and injustices which characterize societies today.

External organisation (Commissioned by)

NameESRC - North West Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom