Lockdowns and the racialised working class with Professor John Preston (CRRE Seminar)

Wednesday 16 February 2022 (17:00-18:00)

Dr Sarah Gillborn, s.gillborn@bham.ac.uk

Professor John Preston, University of Essex

National and local lockdowns in the Coronavirus pandemic were both an enactment and a continuation of State plans to control racialised working class people in a crisis.

Throughout the history of preparedness education, ‘stay put’, ‘invacuation’ and ‘shelter in place’ policies have often been implemented as social control measures. Drawing on theoretical and empirical work on the history of civil defence and preparedness, the Grenfell Tower fire, and the COVID-19 pandemic, these methods of population control are a form of eliminationism. This manifests itself as ‘asocial murder’ where the agency of the perpetrators is obscured through markets and class strategies. However, contradictions and resistances consistently challenge the effort of State and Capital to act against the interests of racialised working class people.


John works on the sociology of disasters, emergencies and existential threat. He also works on the sociology of education with reference to class, race, Higher Education, Vocational Education and Adult Education. His work considers social inequalities in preparedness for disasters and emergencies. This has involved analysis of preparedness campaigns and films from the Cold War in the UK and US, reappraising working class children's agency in the Aberfan disaster, community case studies on public information for terrorist attacks, comparative analysis of national cultures of preparedness and critiquing popular conceptions of existential threat from nuclear war to A.I. 'super-intelligence'.

His book 'Grenfell Tower: Preparedness, Race and Disaster Capitalism' (2019) examines the role of fire safety information in the tower block fire and his recent book ‘Coronavirus, Class and Mutual Aid’ (with Rhiannon Firth) (2021) provides a critique of the UK Government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic

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