Watley, G. (2010) The role of compulsory education in shaping the consumption behaviour amongst Caribbean people in Northamptonshire, England c. 1955-1985. Paper presented to: 35th Economic and Business Historical Society Conference (EBHS 2010), Braga, Portugal, 27-29 May 2010.
University of Northampton, Northamptonshire Black History Association
The experiences of compulsory education are not commonly thought of as shaping future consumer behaviour, except for defining cultural and social differentiation. (Bourdieu, 1984, 1998) This paper will discuss and analyse how the compulsory education experiences of a minority group, in this case Caribbean people in the English county of Northamptonshire, shaped their future consumption behaviour in a different context. In doing so, the paper will serve to illustrate the processes of differentiation antithetical to being solely in reference to, and the value systems of, cultural hegemony. To provide context, the paper commences with a brief overview of educational issues that affected Caribbean people in Britain generally, especially in terms of the hierarchical structures they were fighting against. It then moves on to demonstrate how local people resisted cultural hegemony, leading to the formation of a supplementary school created to enhance Caribbean young people’s self-esteem and academic ability. The paper subsequently establishes how young people are consumers of education, and identifies the potential consequences of this relation for racially discriminated groups. Caribbean people in this context shaped at least some of their consumer behaviour by being antithetical to the racialized view of their inferiority as taught directly and indirectly in their compulsory education experiences. Furthermore, the paper will introduce an organisation of young Caribbean people in Northamptonshire created in the mid-1970s to provide the reader an understanding of not only the generational differences in how consumption behaviour was shaped by compulsory education, but some of the different mechanisms used by different social sub-sections based on their varied experiences. Individuals used their compulsory education experience to shape their counter hegemonic consumer behaviour, influences and actions; particularly, but not exclusively, through books and magazines. Some of these consumer behaviours are currently manifest, and the paper will compound the argument by offering examples. In its conclusion, the paper will state that isolation felt by an ethnic minority group such as Northamptonshire Caribbeans, combined with educational experiences indoctrinating them into having views of their inferiority, occurred at multiple points. Understanding how and where these various nodes intersect and interact, both individually and collectively, will augment the comprehension of how and why minority groups facing high levels of discrimination could have resulting strong desires to pursue consumer experiences affirming and reaffirming their cultural identity and positive ethno-racial self-esteem. The impact of compulsory education on future consumption behaviour is extensive both in terms of the depth and range of consumption affected, as well as time away from formal schooling. This paper will provide an analysis of, and insight into, means and mechanisms people from ethno-racial minority groups use consumer behaviour to resist cultural dominance resulting from discriminatory school experiences, including using future non-compulsory education as consumption to deliberately thwart projections of inferiority onto discriminated subjects