June 13, 2018

Watching the English, Kate Fox

Inspired by watching and reading about Grayson Perry’s ‘All in the Best Possible Taste’ I wanted to explore the idea of ‘Englishness’ through Kate Fox’s text ‘Watching the English’ (which Perry mentions as an influencer for his work).

Some extracts which I found interesting:

‘those who are most ‘fluent’ in the rituals, customs and traditions of a particular culture generally lack the detachment necessary to explain the ‘grammar’ of these practices in an intelligible manner’ p.2

I found this to be turn in our lecture when Nela posed the question, ‘what is British culture?’ and turned firstly to the students raised in the UK. I found it very difficult to define this hence the interest in Perry and Fox’s investigations into British/English culture.

‘The principle effect of globalisation, as far as I can tell, has been an increase in nationalism and tribalism, a proliferation of struggles for independence, devolution and self-determination and a resurgence of concern about ethnicity and cultural identity in almost all parts of the world’ p.14

I found Fox’s view of how globalisation is changing country’s cultures very different to how it is elsewhere presented. Other people inform us that globalisation is breaking down culture and increasing Americanisation. Through Fox’s prompts I could see how her views are very valid – Brexit and the nation’s vote to break from the EU, Scotland voting in a referendum, parts of the UK becoming more distinct (such as Cornwall), parts of the country where cultures cluster together (such as the Bangladeshi communities in Bradford) – and this is just looking at the UK let alone further afield.

‘A schoolteacher and an estate agent would both technically be ‘middle class’. They might even both live in a terraced house, drive a Volvo, drink in the same pub and earn roughly the same annual income. But we judge social class in much more subtle and complex ways: precisely how you arrange, furnish and decorate your terraced house; not just the make of the car you drive, but whether you wash it yourself on Sundays, take it to a car wash or rely on the English climate to sluice off the worst of the dirt for you.’ p.15

This extract relates directly to Perry’s episode on ‘middle class’ taste in his documentary. He explored the subtle differences about class such as what separates the new middle class from the more established middle class.