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Title: Banishing the abject: constituting oppositional relationships in a Maltese harbour town
Authors: Sharon, Attard
Advisors: Argenti, N
Froerer, P
Keywords: Abjection;Social reproduction;Class;Performativity;Education
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: This thesis explores abjection as it comes to be socially reproduced across generations, and contested in moments of cultural resistance. It does so by examining how children from the rough inner harbour town of Marsa, Malta, responded to the presence of Sub-Saharan African migrants within their social space. The children seemed implicitly aware of how their working class town had historically been constituted as a socially marginal space, dubbed ‘low status’ by virtue of the social transgressions and vices which were considered to occur within it. The subsequent state of being symbolically cast off, or socially marginalized, is considered in terms of ‘abjection’. I explore how some people come to be devalued according to predominant symbolic systems of classification and value, and I examine how these peripheral social positions often come to be reproduced and resisted. The introduction of an open centre for sub-Saharan African migrant men in 2005 saw a sudden shift in the demographic population of Marsa, as hundreds of socially marginalized men were relocated within a dilapidated trade school on the outskirts of the town, whilst others sought to take advantage of cheap rent in the area. This thesis explores how my child informants came to constitute oppositional relationships with the migrants and with the Maltese bourgeoisie in turn, by appropriating concepts of dirt and social pollution as a symbolic boundary. In so doing, children subconsciously resisted the states of abjection conferred upon them, effectively and performatively shifting the abject in another direction whilst constructing a vision of their own alterity. In making this argument, my thesis brings together existing literature on social reproduction and abjection, whilst addressing a lacuna in anthropological literature by considering how politicized processes of abjection are undertaken by those who are socially marginalized themselves. It also marks a significant contribution to child-focused anthropology, in understanding ways in which children engage with processes of abjection.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
Appears in Collections:Anthropology
Dept of Social Sciences Media and Communications Theses

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