On Wednesday, 30 August, an event was held at University of Edinburgh to mark the publication of a new special issue of Cultural Sociology (Vol 11 Issue 3) on social inequality and the cultural sector co-edited by Dave O’Brien (Edinburgh University), Kim Allen (Leeds University), Sam Friedman (LSE) and Anamik Saha (Goldsmiths).
Following an introduction and overview of the special issue by Sam Friedman, the evening consisted of a lively debate featuring four guest panellists drawn from arts and entertainment: Kate Fox (poet, comedian and academic); Clive Gilman (Creative Scotland and Scottish Funding Council); Robbie O’Neil (a working-class actor, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell; Casualty) and Yasmin Sulaiman (Editor-in-Chief at The List.) The discussion began with each of the speakers sharing their experiences and perspectives on encountering, navigating and challenging inequalities in the cultural industries, before addressing questions from the audience. The discussion was engaged and wide-reaching, covering topics including precarity and the working conditions of creative workers, the onscreen representation of minorities, to necessary interventions, whether grassroots or policy-based. The event explored and developed many of the themes of the special issue, and facilitated a direct, yet still too rare, conversation between academic researchers, practitioners and policy makers.
The special issue – entitled ‘Producing and Consuming Inequality: A Cultural Sociology of the Cultural Industries’ – examines how exclusions and inequalities associated with who makes culture intersect with and shape what is represented on stage, on screen, and in print; and practices of consumption. While there is a rich body of work within the field of cultural sociology that has grappled with the social patterning and social inequality in production, representation and consumption of culture, rarely these three domains are brought together. The special issue features papers from Anna Bull (Portsmouth) and Christina Scharff (KCL) on classical musicians; Anamik Saha (Goldsmiths) on race and theatre; Sara De Benedictis (Brunel), Kim Allen (Leeds) and Tracey Jensen (Lancaster) on factual welfare television; Paul Widdop (Leeds Beckett), Peter Millward and Halpin (independent scholar) on social network analysis, class and Britipop; Sam Friedman (LSE) and Dave O’Brien (Edinburgh) on typecasting; and an introduction from the editors setting the agenda on inequalities in consumption, representation, and production. The issue brings these areas together by addressing three key themes: the demographics of inequality; the epistemological effects of how production, representation and consumption are structured and organised; and the questions of complicity and resistance among cultural workers. The articles engage with these themes through analyses that cover a range of cultural sectors including popular and classical music, television, and theatre, and inequalities including race and ethnicity, social class, gender and region.
The special issue is available in print and online in Cultural Sociology. Two of the papers are currently available as open access, including the guest editors’ Introduction.