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Moral Panics and Young White Working-Class Identities The Moralising Discourse on ’Chavs’ Dr. Elias le Grand Department of Sociology, Stockholm University GEDS, Birkbeck College, University of London. Introduction. Connecting moral panic panic studies a nd cultural class analysis
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The Moralising Discourse on ’Chavs’
Dr. Elias le Grand
Department of Sociology, Stockholm University
GEDS, Birkbeck College, University of London
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
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* The Daily Mail, the Daily Star, the Express, the Financial Times, the
Guardian, the Independent, the Mirror, the Sun, the Telegraph and the Times.
Two quotes from the Daily Telegraph:
“They are the sullen, pasty-faced youths in hooded tops and spanking-new "prison white" trainers who loiter listlessly on street corners; the slack-jawed girls with mottled legs, hoop earrings and heavily-gelled hair who squawk at each other in consonant-free estuary English and frighten old ladies on buses. They are the non-respectable working-classes: the dole-scroungers, petty criminals, football hooligans and teenage pram-pushers” (Lewis, 2004).
“Chav… [is] a suitably monosyllabic noun or adjective designed to illuminate that which is most appalling in the young, designer-label-obsessed under-class of early 21st century Britain. When you see a stunted teenager, apparently jobless, hanging around outside McDonald's dressed in a Burberry baseball Cap, Ben Sherman shirt, ultra-white Reebok trainers and dripping in bling (cheap, tasteless and usually gold-coloured jewellery), he will almost certainly be a chav. If he has difficulty framing the words "you gotta problem mate?" then he will definitely be a chav. Very short hair and souped-up Vauxhall Novas are chav, as is functional illiteracy, a burgeoning career in petty crime and the wearing of one's mobile telephone around the neck. Chavs are most at home in run-down, small-town shopping precincts, smoking and shouting at their mates. A teenage single mum chewing gum or drawing on a cigarette as she pushes her baby, Keanu, to McDonald's to meet the chav she believes to be his father is a chavette” (Tweedie, 2004).
Chav as ’folk devil’ – a threat to the moral and aesthetic order of British society
’Chav’ incorporates two familiar folk devils: (i) young, violent working-class males; (ii) working-class welfare cheats, which includes a gendered social type, namely the single, unwed, young working-class mother.
• Nuisance neighbours
Elias: Have you never had like a name or anything? No?
Katie: Only if it feels like... I’d have family. But I’d never have a boy’s name.
Elias: So you’d have your mum’s name or something?
Katie: Yeah, I’d have my mum’s name. But not in a chav way, like [inaudible] name in Hebrew.
Elias: What’s a chav way to have a...?
Katie: To have ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ on a tattoo.
Elias: But in Hebrew?
Katie: In Hebrew.
Elias: So you wouldn’t have, like, jewellery with her name or ‘Mum’ or something?
Katie: Oh no!
Elias: Okay [laughs at her reaction]. And not names and not your initials or anything?
Katie: [Shakes her head]