Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What the heck is going on?

If ever you've wondered about the various structures that lie above us (in a political-bureacratic sense), well, here we go:

Local authorities are responsible for local government, on issues like traffic and the environment, or the youth and social services. A full list of Bradford's officers is available.

Councillors are elected according to political party and in each ward. A city is divided into many wards. A full list of current councillors is provided.
The councillors sit on various committees through which they monitor and check local governance. There is also a local chamber in which matters of importance can be debated.

Bradford city centre is currently undergoing massive regeneration, the company responsible is the Bradford urban regeneration company.

Education Bradford is responsible for overseeing educational standards in Bradford's schools. It is currently being run by Serco, a private firm, because Bradford's educational services were rendered to the private sector about five years ago. Serco is half way through a ten year contract.

Bradford NHS is divided into primary care trusts, district care trusts and hospital trusts.

Bradford Vision is the local strategic partnership, set up to help improve the delivery of local services. It includes neighbourhood renewal in its portfolio. The council, the NHS, the police and regional representatives sit on its board.

The government office for Yorkshire and Humber is the national government's regional outlay, delivering on its policies and programmes. That is, that government directives come through the government office.

The regional assembly for Yorkshire and Humber is the voice for the region.

Yorkshire Forward is the regional development agency and drives the regeneration (especially economic) of the region.

In terms of national government, there is the Department of Health (NHS), the Department of Education and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister which manages many of the social concerns such as cohesion, renewal and inclusion.

In terms of the Home Office, it is divided into various sections of which two are particularly relevant: communities and security.

There are three MPs in the House of Commons that are elected according to areas of Bradford (Bradford West, Bradford South etc.)

Then, there's Europe...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

'Honour Killings'

The crime of honour killings has been documented and described for a few years now. The depiction is an example of the name encompassing the explanation such as ‘Islamic terrorists’ – which is popularly interpreted as: ‘they are terrorists because they are Muslims’. ‘Honour killings’ as such is interpreted as: ‘they kill to preserve their honour’. I have always found this explanation not quite satisfactory. Though honour is undoubtedly involved as families kill as a response to disgrace – I have thought that possession as opposed to honour helps explain such actions better.

The theory here would be that male members of the family hold on to female members as possessions. The act of possession has consequences for life choices and behaviours. Choosing an alternative marriage partner or having a boyfriend contravenes the rule of possession. As such, the act of killing is an attempt to re-claim a possession that the murderer is in danger of losing.

I want to relate this theory to an important Guardian article from this weekend by Katharine Viner which summarises some research that she conducted along with others into the murder of women (mostly) by their spouses between December 2003 and December 2004. They found that up to 120 people are killed by their partners each year and the researchers said: “The thread that runs through this… is the man's sense of ownership of the woman, and his control over the continuation or cessation of the relationship.” That is, that these are also crimes of possession. As a relationship unravels, the ex-boyfriend kills the former girlfriend: “If I can’t have her, nobody else can”.

This returns me to ‘honour killings’ and what I regard as the construction of lay prejudice. What differentiates ‘honour killings’ from those that were investigated by Viner and others is that families and relatives are involved in honour killings as opposed to spouses (do spouses kill in order to maintain their face in front of their friends?). This could be due to the differential nature of possession across cultures, the Western form being more individualistic and relationship-focused, the Eastern form being more family-focused. As such, the depiction of honour killings is, I would suggest, a form of prejudice as these kinds of killings receive massive media focus whereas as Viner writes of the cases that she investigated: ‘few are reported in the national press’.

This should be of concern because as I listen carefully to conversations in Bradford, it seems clear to me that there is at present an active process which involves the attempted construction of prejudice through lay theories that denigrates others while ignoring the very similar crimes (and perhaps more frequent) that are occurring within British society. It is also important because ‘honour killings’ fit so easily and frequently into lists of negative attributes when others are mentioned. Finally, it is important because it highlights the differences in trajectory from crime to media story. It is my concern that it is a discursive prejudice that determines the outcome.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The 'Hu' Track

The 'Hu' track is music from the heavens. It is available from Deenport in the mp3 files section.