Voices from the Periphery: (De-)Constructing and Contesting Public Narratives about Post-Industrial Marginalization (VOICES)

Project Lead: Dr. Anke Fiedler (German PI)

Post-doc researcher: Dr. Andy Räder

Project partner: Bournemouth University, University of Stirling (UK)

Funding: DFG/AHRC

Period: March 2024 — February 2027


Using a systematic research design informed by critical discourse theory and social structure/inequality research, the VOICES project aims to contrast an elite-centered with a grassroots perspective on the marginalization of post-industrial milieus: first, by examining the role of the media as key agents in the public construction of post-industrial marginalization and the formation of post-industrial marginalized identities (top-down); and second, by exploring the modes of subjectification of residents of post-industrial centers against these dominant mass-mediated narratives (bottom-up). Two thematic work packages will investigate five key areas in order to adequately analyze a cultural manifestation such as marginalization: media regulation, media production and representation, media consumption, and the identity of post-industrial milieus.

The study will compare three communities in Northern England (Middlesbrough, Rotherham and Redcar) and Eastern Germany (Eisenhüttenstadt, Weißwasser and Lauchhammer), all of which have seen the decline of historically identity-forming industrial work. The lived realities of these post-industrial communities will be made tangible through qualitative narrative salons, in-depth interviews, focus groups and diaries, including consideration of intersectional aspects—ultimately with the goal of providing a more nuanced perspective on post-industrial milieus and their self-perceptions, experiences, feelings and views, including those that may have a negative impact on a nation’s democratic culture. On the media front, critical discourse analyses of relevant news and social media, as well as interviews with journalists and focus groups, are planned to identify potential marginalization drivers within both countries’ media systems.

Through this holistic, systematic and comparative approach, the primary goal of the VOICES project is to (re)conceptualize and theorize ‘media marginalization’ in order to make the concept fruitful for future research at the intersection of social structure/inequality research, media and communication studies.