Beverley Skeggs

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Beverley Skeggs was born in Middlesbrough and studied at University of York (BA), Keele University (PGCE, PhD). She has worked at Crewe and Alsager College of Higher Education (Research Fellow), Worcester College of Higher Education (Sociology), University of York (Education and Women's Studies). From 1996 to 1999 she was Director of Women's Studies at Lancaster University (with Celia Lury). In 1999 she was appointed to a Chair in Sociology at the University of Manchester, where she was Head of Department from 2001 – 2004. Since 2004 she has been Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, as Head of Department from 2010-2013. During 2007 she was the Kerstin Hesselgren Professor in Gender Studies at Stockholm University. In 2003 she was elected as an Academician of the Academy of the Learned Societies for the Social Sciences. Professor Skeggs was an honorary professor at the University of Warwick, and has received honorary doctorates from Stockholm University, Aalborg University and the University of Teesside (her home town). She was the joint managing editor of the journal The Sociological Review from 2011-2016, now as European 'editor at large'. From 2013-2016 she held an ESRC Professorial Fellowship to study a 'sociology of values and value'.[1]

Key Studies[edit]

Beverley Skeggs is the author of the influential study Formations of Class and Gender: Becoming Respectable (1997), a longitudinal ethnography of subjectivity across the lives of women as they move from 'caring courses' to work and family, into sexuality and how they negotiate living class in the UK.[2] Formations was translated into Swedish as: Att Bli Respektabel(2000) Stockholm: Diadalos. Translated into French as Des Femmes Respectables; Class et Genre en Milieu Populaire (2015) (translated by Marie-Pierre Pouly, Preface by Anne-Marie Devereux. The understandings of class in Formations were developed in Class, Self, Culture (2004), which critiques the idea of the self and explores the different ways class circulates as a form of value as it attaches to different bodies.[3] Examining the production of values across a range of different sites, such as the IMF, popular culture and academic theory, it puts to the test sociological theories which suggest that class is in decline. Class, Self, Culture was translated into Finnish (2013) as Elava Luokka (Making and Living sukupuolityylit Class) by Anu Hanna Antilla, Lauri Lahikainen and Mikko Jakonen Helsinki: Vastapaino Press. Skeggs' understanding of how the self is classed is developed through engagement with the works of Pierre Bourdieu. In Feminism After Bourdieu, co-edited with Lisa Adkins, feminists address Bourdieu's ideas on reflexivity, emotional capital, the self and the social and their relation to gender. Skeggs explores affect and the self alongside an introduction to Bourdieu.

Her methodological approach was first elaborated in Feminist Cultural Theory: Production and Process(1995), an edited collection that brings together feminists from across disciplines (literature, film, design, media, law, sociology) to discuss how they went about producing their classic texts in cultural studies.

In 1998 at Lancaster University, a group of feminists (of which Beverley Skeggs was a part) organised an international conference on feminist theory. The resulting book Transformations: Thinking Through Feminism (edited with Sara Ahmed, Celia Lury, Jane Kilby and Maureen McNeil) includes chapters by Lauren Berlant, Gayatri Spivak, Donna Haraway, Elspeth Probyn and Vikki Bell. The conference also spawned Routledge's 'Transformations' series, which includes a wide range of volumes on feminist theory, including the works of Kirsten Campbell, Breda Grey, Ann Cronin and Steph Lawler.

A large scale government funded ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) research project with Professor Leslie Moran, Paul Tyrer and Karen Corteen examined the sustainability and experience of gay space, resulting in the book Sexuality and the Politics of Violence and Safety. The book explores how violence can be used as a resource in political claims-making. It also brings together innovative multi-methods, including a census space survey and citizen's inquiries, alongside traditional intervies and focus groups. The idea of gender and sexuality as resources that can be deployed, fixed or attached is developed in the article 'Uneasy Alignments, Resourcing Respectable Subjectivity'.[4] Numerous publications were generated from the sexuality project.

Another large ESRC research project was conducted by Beverley Skeggs (with Helen Wood, Leicester University and Nancy Thumin, Leeds University) between 2005–2008 on the making of a moral economy through reality TV, Making Class and Self through Televised Ethical Scenarios. This project brings together many of the threads already apparent in Professor Skeggs' research, including the making of the exchange-value self, the emphasis that is placed on performing and telling one's self as a source of value and the class and race based challenges that are made through the construction of an alternative moral value system. This research project was part of a much larger research programme, 'Identities,' an ESRC £7million investigation into identity construction in contemporary Britain.[5] Professor Skeggs delivered one of the inaugural lectures for the programme.,.[6][7]

A significant methodological contribution was made by this project, which by using a multi-method approach that combined textual analysis with audience research developed the 'affective textual encounter' for studying audience responses. This method showed how class, gender and race relations are made in the research encounter when women authorise their own speech through recourse to cultural resources such as 'taste' and maternal authority (this is developed in their article on method in the 2008 European Journal of Cultural Studies and the ESRC research report). The research participant's authorisation of particular moral economies was closely related to their positions in circuits of value, positions which cut through, disturb and constitute gender, race and class. It has been published as 'Reacting to Reality TV; Audience, Performance and Value'(with Helen Wood). The research also led to an international edited collection on 'Reality Television and Class' (also with Helen Wood) published by BFI/Palgrave. Numerous articles have been published on this project. Her most recent work consolidates the prior analysis of the relationship between value and values, leading to the development of ideas about the moral economy of person production.[8] She developed the idea of 'person value' following a critique of Bourdieu[9] and an exploration of how ideology is produced through 'value struggles'.[10]

Beverley Skeggs has been debating issues of class throughout her career. She edited a special issue on "Sociologies of Class: Elites (GBCS) and Critiques" (2015)[11] with an introduction on "Stratification or exploitation, domination, dispossession and devaluation? This developed from her critique of the GBCS on BBC Radio 4's "Thinking Allowed".[12] And her response to Mike Savage's inaugural lecture at the LSE on "The Old New Politics of Class".[13] At the International Sociological Association conference in 2015 she responded to Michael Burawoy in a debate about Gramsci and Bourdieu, "Roots of domination"[14]

In September 2013 Beverley Skeggs began an ESRC Professorial Fellowship on 'A Sociology of Values and Value'. You can hear her discuss her introductory framework for the British Journal of Sociology annual lecture.[15] The ESRC Values and Value project began as a study of what happens when economic value is accumulated from spheres previously considered non-economic such as social network platforms and prosperity theology.[16] For instance, Facebook makes considerable economic gain from commodifying friendship through the algorithmic conversion of 'likes' into advertising sales. Does this process reconfigure the value/s of friendship? What happens to values such as loyalty and care in this conversion? Do friends capitalise upon their own value? Using software designed by Dr Simon Yuill, this research installed a plug in on volunteers’ browsers to collect all data over six months. It found that Facebook constantly tracks people whether they are on the Facebook platform or not. Digital friendliness is conducted through rhythms of interaction driven by algorithms. These algorithms artificially stimulate the intensity of exchange with ‘people of influence", that is you are more likely to be connected to those on your newsfeed who have power and influence than those who have none. However, with prosperity theology research, conducted through ethnography, the project found that prosperity theology doesn’t just connect people into the faith of money but also provides a social service for marginalized communities. Research papers include: The methodology of a multi-model project examining how Facebook infrastructures social relations.[17] And Capital experimentation with person/a formation: how Facebook's monetization refigures the relationship between property, personhood and protest.[18] In this project software is used alongside quantitative and qualititive methods to investigate the digital production of new forms of inequality. See presentation for the Helsinki Anthropology/SR "Knots" conference "A new regime of accumulation? Tying in and tying up, tracking relations on Facebook".[19] The final symposium of the conference[20] will be available on the Sociological Review website.[21]

'Contributions to sociological development:'

− In 2016 (with Mike Savage, Sociology, LSE) Beverley Skeggs established The Sociological Review Foundation as a charity and community organisation to support interdisciplinary social science activities, especially support for ECR's: see.[22] The charity operates alongside the UK's oldest sociological journal.[23]

'Public interventions:'

Beverley Skeggs can be heard reflecting on the analysis of her 'Formations of Class and Gender; Becoming Respectable'book.[24] An interview about the reality television research can be heard on BBC Radio 4 Talking Allowed.[25] Julie Burchill interviewed Beverley Skeggs for the Sky TV programmes, 'Chavs' (2005); and 'Girl Power' (2007) (see YouTube). She has also appeared in contributions to popular debates, such as the 1998 Channel 4 TV programme on 'Things to Come', exploring (with a comic twist) the future role of women.[26] The BBC's Thinking Allowed radio programme covered her work in 2003,[27] 2008[28] and where she has also discussed 'class and Christmas', 'cruel optimism', 'moral economies' and 'everyday life' (with Les Back in 2016. She was a judge for the BSA/BBC Radio 4 ethnography prize in 2015.[29] 'A Guide to the Modern Snob', BBC Radio 4 (2016)[30] features Beverley Skeggs, as does 'Objects of Desire', BBC Radio 4 (2016),[31] where Matthew Sweet explores how the things people accumulate say more than expected about who they are.

Beverley Skeggs joined a panel presentation as part of the Former West Public Editorial Meeting (2015) on Who is a "People?" Constructions of the "We" for[32] In a day devoted to "Following in the Tracks of Richard Hoggart", she gave a presentation of the significant connections between Hoggart and other ethnographic work on class. Beverley Skeggs gave a keynote lecture at the Pits and Perverts Revisited event @ Law Department, Birkbeck. 2015.[33] In 2016 she engaged in a public debate with Lenny Henry, Pat Younge and Dawn Foster on "A Future for Public Service Television: Content and Platforms in a Digital World".[34] "Are You Being Heard? Representing Britain on TV for the public inquiries into the future of public TV. See Are You Being Heard? Transcript, 22 March 2016. See also #FutureofTV @Tvinquiry

Key publications[edit]

Publications on Beverley Skeggs

  • Thinking with Beverley Skeggs (edited by Annika Olsson) Stockholm. Stockholm University Press. (2008) (ISBN 91-87792-41-9) pp. 105.
  • Arvostus ja Vastarinta (an interview with Beverley Skeggs) Aivojen yhteistyon muisti vihkot. Helsinki. Translated Mikko Jakonen. (978-952-92-4508-6). pp. 40 (
  • Interview on Respectability and Resistance with Beverley Skeggs (2006)
  • Tornhill, Sophie and Tollin, Katharina ‘On the economy of Moralism and Working-class Properness: An interview with Beverley Skeggs about Feminism, Respectability and Use-Value’, in Fronesis: a Journal of Marxism and Feminism (2008) pp. 25–26. Also in Eurozine.


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  6. ^ New Formations of Spectacular Selves
  7. ^ Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
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  11. ^ The Sociological Review. Volume 63, Issue 2, DOI: 10.1111/1467-954X.12297
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  17. ^ The methodology of a multi-model project examining how Facebook infrastructures social relations (2015)Information, Communication and Society.DOI:10.1080/1369118X.2015.1091026. p1-17
  18. ^ Capital experimentation with person/a formation: how Facebook's monetization refigures the relationship between property, personhood and protest (2016)Information, Communication & Society Volume 19, Issue 3. DOI:10.1080/1369118X.2015.1111403
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