Following a 4 month ethnographic study in the mining towns of the East Midlands funded by the International Inequalities Institute, Lisa Mckenzie introduced the narratives and the images of those that since ‘Brexit’ have been described as the ‘left behind’. This rhetoric of ‘the stupid’ ‘the ignorant’ and the ‘racist’ when speaking about in particular ‘the white working class’ has sharpened since the June 2016 European Referendum, when large parts of the de-industrialised north and midlands voted to ‘leave’.
Lisa Mckenzie's research took her back to the places where she grew up and the communities that overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU. Lisa found their reasons were varied and broad. This part of the UK was decimated during the 1980s and 1990s. They were proud places and people where the men kept ‘the lights on’ with their labour down the ‘pits’, while the women’s labour ensured the good people of middle England had nice well-fitting Marks and Spencer undies. These communities were heavily industrialised and filled with skilled manual labour jobs for both men and women. They became wiped clean through de-industrialisation and void of work and investment for decades. In the last ten years, particularly since the 2008 banking crash new industries have opened in warehouse and distribution work, payday loan companies, and slum land lording. The ground since de-industrialisation has become fertile for systems of exploitation. Migrant workers from Eastern Europe have been recruited into the area to work and to live in these exploitative industries.
This seminar used the voices, images and the landscape of the de-industrialised midlands to tell the narrative not of the ‘left behind’ but of a proud people, that were thrown under the Brexit bus.