9.03 Educational and Class Backgrounds

Everyone in the collective of this time had been through higher education and several now teach part-time in further or higher education. The class backgrounds were generally in the area of lower middle class. This category can include people whose working class parents had worked their way up the 'ladder' to middle class jobs (e.g. Jenet and Paul).

My mother's father was a painter and decorator and in the warâ I don't know if my grandmother had a job, but anyway, they were respectable working class. I know he had to go up ladders a lot, my granddadâ My dad's father was a Clerk for Imperial Tobacco andâ I think his father was a cobbler and he kind of raised himself (up) by going to evening classes and became a Clerk. (He) worked with Imperial Tobacco and got free tobacco every week until the day he diedâ My dad's family were a little more posh than my mother's family. They had middle class pretensions whereas my mum's family were ordinary - felt themselves to be ordinary folk. (JT)

My mother told me a couple of days ago, when I asked her this question, (that my) mother's father was a builder and bricklayer. He didn't run his own company. His wife, my grandmother, was a housewife. I think she had my mum when she was quite young. She got married when she was about nineteen. On my father's side, my granddad started off as an office boy in the Spanish equivalent of ICI. He worked in that company his whole life and ended up being a director by the end of it. (PT)

Lower middle class can also encompass people who seemed to have a conventional middle class background but whose parents had been relatively poor, (Duncan and Colette), or whose parents were in mixed class marriages, (Duncan and Paul).

The story is that on my father's side my father was brought up by his grandmother while his mother worked and she was a single motherâ (She) was secretary for the theatre critic of the Daily Herald, the old labour paper and through being secretary she'd meet loads of actorsâ  Yeah, six kids in the family and we just kind of ran wild really because there wasn't much you could do with us. And I just used to watch TV all the time. (DR)

The pressures of being raised by a single parent, (Paul and Colette) complicate this picture.

(My mother) was a Secretary. And South Africa was really hard, because in South Africa, when you are a single parent, with a child, then you are obviously a whoreâ So what my mother had to do was put me in boarding school. (CR)

Thomas Zagrosek is the only person with a straightforwardly working class background.

I just heard yesterday, because my uncle is visiting at the moment, that my grandfather from my father's side was a social democrat who was shovelling coal into a piece of machinery for about 30 years. Apparently he was incredibly well-read, so if you for example visited a place like London then you could ask him where to go, what to do and where to turn left and where to turn right and he could tell you, even (though) he never left his little home town. (Laughing). I was a hairdresser, I was learning the trade as a hairdresser - My choice was of leading a normal life, getting a hairdresser's job, getting my own shop eventually, or going abroad to study art. (TZ)

Caroline's class background is ambiguous (lower middle Australian suburbanite) and shows the difficulty of translating class labels across national boundaries.

By educational achievement we might say the cultural class background tends to be lower middle class but by their current economic status the group are all relatively poor with low incomes.[1]

The relevance of this is in relation to the oral nature of Exploding Cinema discourse, and to demonstrate that the collective members, at this point, are not derived from an elite class. I am defining this elite class as those people who are well read and literary, that sends its children to private schools and then on to the top universities. Working and lower middle class cultures tends to be more or less oral cultures or at least to have an oral provenance. Nonetheless, a certain proportion of these 'lower' classes do go to higher education and absorb, or at least become conversant with the literary codes of the dominant classes.[2]

Although the collective cannot be seen as working class with their often middle class parents and tertiary education - they do have a heritage, which is working class a generation or two back. Or their circumstances have meant that they have not grown up enjoying the privileges one associates with a middle class upbringing.

If we assume that cultural influences fade gradually over several generations we can see that the personnel in the collective are in general weaned by 'the masses' rather than the elite. And as such they share and are embedded in that mass culture

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[1] None of the collective had children in the period of this research, which perhaps helps with having more spare time and being able to survive with little money. The economic situation of many of the core collective was improving as I finished this thesis in 2002.

 

[2] Academic discourses on class identity and culture have seen a recent revival. See Class, edited by Patrick Joyce (Oxford UP 1995) for a general discussion. Cultural Studies and the Working Class: subject to change, edited by Sally R. Munt (Cassell 2000) 'challenges British cultural studies to return to questions of social class'. I also wrote The Conspiracy of Good Taste (Working Press 1993) which is substantially about the cultural dimension of class identity.