'Who the hell are ordinary people?' Ordinariness as a category of historical analysis

Langhamer, Claire (2018) 'Who the hell are ordinary people?' Ordinariness as a category of historical analysis. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. ISSN 0080-4401 (Accepted)

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Ordinariness was a frequently deployed category in the political debates of 2016. According to one political leader, the vote for Brexit was ‘a victory for ordinary, decent people who’ve taken on the establishment and won’. In making this claim Nigel Farage sought to link a dramatic political moment with a powerful, yet conveniently nebulous, construction of the ordinary person. In this paper I want to historicise recent use of the category by returning to another moment when ordinariness held deep political significance: the years immediately following the Second World War. I will explore the range of values, styles, and specific behaviours that gave meaning to the claim to be ordinary; consider the relationship between ordinariness, everyday experience and knowledge; and map the political work ordinariness was called upon to perform. I argue that the immediate postwar period was a critical moment in the formation of ordinariness as a social category, an affective category, a moral category, a consumerist category and, above all, a political category. Crucially, ordinariness itself became a form of expertise, a finding that complicates our understanding of the ‘meritocratic moment’.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Ordinariness, British, History, Postwar
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth
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Depositing User: Claire Langhamer
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2018 10:14
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2018 10:18
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/77212

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