Uncomfortable Positions: How Policy Practitioners Negotiate Difficult Subjects

Jones, Hannah. 2011. Uncomfortable Positions: How Policy Practitioners Negotiate Difficult Subjects. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines how policy practitioners negotiate difficult subjects, specifically the difficult subjects entailed in negotiations around community cohesion policy. The research applies a governmentality perspective to consider how people working within government (using techniques of governmentality to govern populations) are subject to regimes of governmentality themselves. A substantial body of the research is based on detailed ethnographic work (both participant observation and extensive semi-structured, reflexive qualitative interviews with policy practitioners) in Hackney, an inner London borough with a very diverse population (in terms of ethnicity, economic status, migration histories, beliefs and experiences). Hackney rarely appears in narratives of community cohesion policy, and local practitioners have framed it as a place that is comfortable with diversity – a success story of twenty-first century multiculturalism. Often this story is told (in everyday talk and in official documents) by reference to places which have come to epitomise 'community cohesion problems', specifically Oldham (representing segregation between white and Asian communities, the potential for explosive violence), Barking and Dagenham (standing for problems with a disenfranchised 'white working class' turning to racist extremism) and Peterborough (as a place coping with sudden large-scale new immigration). The thesis follows these narratives, interviewing policy practitioners in each of these places to understand how they negotiate community cohesion policy from within the narrative, as well as policy practitioners working with local government at the national level who shed light on how places, communities and the practice of policy are understood from this location. The thesis raises questions of how to understand practices of government, and the uncomfortable and ambiguous ethical negotiations such practices sometimes entail; the importance of place and place-branding in governing; the relationship of narrative, place and governing to questions of material power inequalities; and the potential for understanding government through a 'sociological imagination'.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


local government, community cohesion, hackney, place, brand, emotion, multiculturalism, governmentality, policy, extremism, white working class,

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



11 April 2011

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

13 Jan 2012 14:54

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:13



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