This cartoon below by Charles Barsotti is a good illustration of the social construction of group deviance in public spaces. This cartoon points out how some social groupings can be given negative labels, such as a “cult.” The beliefs or the practices of particular socio-economic groups can are treated with suspicion by a dominant group where they do not conform to society’s norms, values, behaviour or appearance. Non-conformity can lead to the creation of stereotypes; that is, labels that simplify specific qualities of some people as typical of the group they belong to (hence the cartoon, where one wolf says to another, “We’re a pack, not a cult.”).
In most circumstances crowds that “blend in” and meet society’s standards of “acceptability” escape the stigma of social deviance. Cases where “ordinary” groups might be negatively labelled by authorities might occur during times of civil unrest, such as during political protests, or due to other political cycles, such as the lead up to an election.
Racial minority youth are often labelled as deviant simply for being in public. In the case of Aboriginal youth, even something as routine as being in a shopping centre is mired by harassment by security (Perry 2018: Powell 2018). In another example, Muslim girls have been forced to leave a school excursion at a public exhibition centre because other visitors felt “uncomfortable” (Foster 2017).
Let’s take a look at this problem of stereotyping racial minority youth in public spaces, focusing specifically today on migrant minorities. We’ll examine how labelling these youth as “deviant” keeps society from paying attention to pressing social problems, such as structural inequality and interpersonal gender violence.
Sudanese Australians use music to reflect on their war experiences. This group performed for the Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) in Western Sydney. One performer says:
When you’re happy, you sing it out; when you’re sad, you sing it out… You talk to people, you make an announcement – anything at all, you make a song.
Another singer says:
It looks like fun, but it’s not fun… I’m not a young woman, I’m an old woman. I can’t come if it’s [just] fun. We want the people that doesn’t know what happened a long time in the past, and that is why we are here.
STARTTS Chief Executive says:
Dance brings people together, but also brings people together in a way that turns thoughts and feelings into action, and that’s tremendously therapeutic.
I’ve been doing a visual sociology of the Western Suburbs of Melbourne via Instagram, which is why I loved this story. The Western Sydney suburb of Granville had been hosting a bus tour highlighting the cultural diversity of Sydney’s architecture. People could also visit sites on foot and get historical and cultural information via their iPads. Tour curator John Kirkman says they focused on sites that had once been dominated by Anglo Australian businesses and had now diversified:
I think it’s really special because it’s a great representation of what Australia really is… When I grew up here it was mainly Anglo people. Now it’s not. It’s people from the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific, people who come to make Australia home live here.
The Western suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne have the highest proportion of non-English-speaking migrants in Australia. They are also predominantly working class suburbs that are often a source of derision amongst mainstream media. Most Australian news tends to only report on these suburbs when there are crimes and other social problems, such as so-called “race riots.”
Visual sociology of the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, Australia: Caroline Springs is a relatively new area that had a bad reputation about a decade a go. First because the media sensationalised illegal cock fighting as something that was endemic of its residents. It wasn’t; it was a tiny minority of unethical people treating animals illegally. Second, I was struck by the number of people who lived in the longer established outer suburbs in the West who looked down on the families who moved into these new estates. Continue reading Visual Sociology of the Western Suburbs of Melbourne
A visual sociology of the Western suburbs of Melbourne, with an artificial lake behind a shopping centre. Like so many new shopping centres and estates in this area, we must have water and ducks surrounding us. The asthetic presumably brings us closer to nature and beautifies the ever expanding buildings.