Gender, Marginalisation and Social Exclusion Symposium Closing Remarks
From Dr Ian Mahoney, Professor Geraldine Brady and Dr Hind Elhinnawy.
Firstly, Dr Ian Mahoney and Professor Geraldine Brady and I would like to thank everyone for taking a day out of their busy lives to attend our first in-person symposium with us. For our research group, Critical Criminology and Social Justice which Ian, myself and colleagues in criminology and criminal justice started almost two years ago, this symposium is of special significance. This is because it is our first in-person event, hopefully one of many to come, and because of the future implications of the ideas discussed throughout the day, which we will provide a brief of in this closing. The idea of this symposium sparked from discussions around ways in which the notions of gender, marginalisation and social exclusion are intertwined and also the roles that they play within broader policy and academic debates. Concepts of social exclusion are becoming increasingly prevalent as part of social policy approaches. They have emerged because they claim to capture both the material and cultural aspects of deprivation and try to integrate the various forms of disadvantage in a single framework. However, closer analysis reveals a myriad of problems with the core concepts underpinning them. To name but a few: gender critique and analysis of experience in academic literature showing the ways in which power is dispersed, contingent and unstable; individuals shape and are shaped by social processes and institutions and are not just passive recipients of their effects; and social exclusion theories frequently see such factors as structural, and often do not embrace concepts of agency. The contributors to this symposium bring to life some of these critiques compelling us to rethink marginalisation and social exclusion in new and innovative ways.
In this symposium we had five very stimulating panels. Dr Tirion Havard, Associate Professor in the Social Work Department at London South Bank University, opened the day with a keynote talk exploring the ways in which ‘power’ and ‘control’ result in different levels of abuse to create fear, marginalisation and social exclusion and in particular the misuse of digital technology and how can this lead to the creation of an insidious panopticon of surveillance, coupled with technologically facilitated gaslighting, for victims of domestic abuse. Following this, our first panel centred Violence against Women from two very differing angles. Building on some of themes of Dr Havard’s keynote, Dr Kirsty Welsh, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Law at Nottingham Trent University, questioned whether the law and its institutions are equipped to deal with the range of behaviours that characterise domestic abuse and intimate personal violence, especially those behaviours that are associated with coercion and control. She concluded that the law and its operation minimise and exclude the gendered harm experienced. This shows the ways in which coercive control is facilitated by technology but also reinforced by the gaps found within our laws. The second presentation in this panel, Dr Larissa Sandy, has inspired us to rethink the ways in which the marginalisation and exclusion of sex workers is constituted in and legitimated through a feminist policing of sex workers lives and choices, which sets out to create a ‘truth’ about sex work and sex workers’ experiences. This, Dr Sandy argued, creates deserving victims and undeserving sex industry ‘fans’ in sex worker and trans exclusionary feminist organisations. This all enforces the idea that coercive control is in fact not only enacted by men but also by ratified by society, policies, and the law, which compels us to question and challenge such framings and seek to transform understandings of sex work and criminalising frameworks.
Our second panel of the day focused on Crime and Justice. The panel began with Mrs Catalina Ortuzar, a Doctoral Research Candidate at the University of Bristol, examining women’s pathways to prison and the ways in which economic factors are the main factors that inform women's trajectories to crime. She discussed the lack of evidence regarding women offenders’ economic factors, such as labour participation, economic marginalisation, work precarity and crime in criminological literature, despite the abundant discussions of the same issue regarding men’s trajectories to crime. This compels us to rethink feminist pathways to include socialisation and structural positions that women have in the market in neoliberal societies that can influence their involvement in crime. Dr Silvia Gomes, Lecturer in Criminology at Nottingham Trent University, examined women’s re-entry from prison and forced us to reflect on whether the system or society are the main barriers for women's re-entry from prison through examining stages of women’s re-entry. Dr Gomes’s work examined barriers to the re-entry process identified through the lens of the female (ex-)prisoners themselves, showing how social exclusion, violence, incarceration and other forms of ‘continuous punishment’ are recurring in their testimonies. This segued seamlessly into the inspiring keynote speech by Dr Geraldine Brown, Assistant Professor in the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University, which forced us to start seriously thinking about intersectionality when discussing the issues of women within the criminal justice system. Studying pregnant women in prison, Dr Brown argues that women have positive and negative experiences both in and out of prison and that homelessness, poverty, mental health and racial disparity are only a few of women’s experiences that enforce their marginalisation and social exclusion.
Our third panel, which was the longest, included three very inspiring presentations on Migration and Belonging. Acknowledging that unaccompanied migrant girls face triple invisibility; being migrant, being girls and being unaccompanied, Mrs Tatiana Avignone, a researcher at Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Spain, discussed how human rights can be integrated into an objective tool that aims to systematise the profiles of unaccompanied minors in order to predict future risks. Mrs Avignone argued that a better understanding of the experience and needs of these young girls can lead to more effective interventions to promote their well-being. Dr Nita Mishra, a researcher at the University College Cork in Ireland, explored her work on social inclusion of rural to urban migrants in Hanoi, Vietnam. Dr Mishra’s presentation analysed the reasons behind women’s decisions to collect rubbish and sell juice on the streets of Hanoi as a means of livelihood, by investigating women’s own narratives with a focus on narratives of agency over vulnerability and exploitation and again encouraging us to listen to and embed the voices of those we seek to understand throughout our work.. Instead of focusing only on the vulnerabilities the focus was on exploring ‘agency’. And Sarah Bdeir, a Doctoral Research Candidate at Nottingham Trent University, discussed the development of a group of refugees as creative writers in a second language from a social care perspective following a narrative approach to inquiry. The contributors to this panel compel us to think about agency in new and innovative ways; what does it actually mean and how it is enacted in light of what some term ‘self-determination.’
Our fourth panel on Men and Masculinity, unfortunately, was hort, because of apologies by two presenters. Dr Neil Radford, however, has given us an inspiring presentation for a new model to describe the learned behaviours of male sex buyers in the heterosexual street sex market. The model, which has three levels, describes how the behaviour is initially learned through exposure to familial, social, and societal influences based on male/female power imbalances, peer pressure, social development, and cultural influences, demonstrating the use of power and control in applying these learned behaviours. This shows the ways in which ‘power’ and ‘control’ become the key motive behind buying sex, which reinforces the ideas brought forth in our first panel.
And in our final panel which focused on Pedagogy and Practice, Dr Shardia Briscoe-Palmer, Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Nottingham, discussed the ways in which Black masculinities are constructed both in and out of the classroom, showing how Black men and their voices are both excluded yet included within constructions of race and gender in the classroom. When mentioned, it is primarily in relation to a narrow set of specific racial and gender stereotypes, negatively associated with violence, crime, and anti-social behaviour. This compels us to rethink what we teach, how we teach it, and in whose interest we teach. And acknowledging that our ideas and understanding of romantic relationships and love are constructed through competing racialized, gendered, and classed frames, Paulette Sawyers, a Doctoral Research Candidate at Nottingham Trent University, followed this, arguing for the inclusion of alternate talk that expresses ways of knowing, naming, and experiencing romantic relationships. Terms like ‘wifey’, ‘baby mother’, ‘side piece’ and ‘link,’ form part of everyday talk within youth subcultural groups and speak directly to young Black people’s experiences and yet are largely ignored when discussing relationships and sex in educational settings. This emphasises the marginalisation and exclusion of young Black people within western societies, and links historically to the ways in which minorities are controlled, marginalised and excluded.
Several concluding remarks arise from the discussions held at the symposium. Firstly, the discussions showed how different marginalised groups attempt to counter-story their lives as the prevailing discourses and dominant narratives become unhelpful or, at times, even harmful. The discussions also examined the challenges and complexities of such discursive work. In examining marginalised voices, the presentations at this symposium mapped an alternative image of marginalised groups that encourages alternatives, not only to assumptions of homogeneity and powerlessness, but also assumptions of unquestionable agency. The reality is far more complex than a simple binary explanation of as victimised or liberated. Throughout the discussions, it has become clear that any analysis of the tensions and complexities surrounding the social exclusion of marginalised groups needs to address the wider political culture in which these debates take place. Overall, this symposium made some of us, including myself, think of the dire need of embedding narratives and stories into trying to understand people’s experiences, something I firmly believe in and strongly call for in my own research. We cannot reduce experiences into numbers we need to understand and radically listen to those whom we end up judging in our research. By examining narratives, we aim to appreciate the complexity of living and telling about being marginalised and excluded. As a feminist scholar/activist, I am compelled to support and understand the intricacy of such discursive resistance and the circulation of alternative visions and voices, that open up new possibilities.
To end, I ask you to join us in reflecting on the key question posed by Dr Geraldine Brown during the day’s events: How can we make a difference in light of the massive inadequacy within policy and practice, and how can we move forward to see and make change in the lives of those we include in our research?