Dissertation Planning

Two days ago, I sat down and planned my entire dissertation. This plan did not go into which sources I would analyse and where, but the general structure of my argument.

I’m using Rosenwein’s concept of ’emotional communities’ to analyse Liverpool’s dock community and how the emotional norms and values of this community shaped the course of the dispute in 1995-98. Rosenwein argues that a shared set of interests, goals and emotional standards govern how people express their feelings and, in turn, this serves to uphold the core values of the group. So, I have created a structure that mirrors this entirely.

Intro bits:
In this section I am discussing my literature review and methodology, mainly looking at the history of emotions, labour history, deindustrialisation studies and notions of class and gender. My main argument here will be that labour historians have focused on the relationship between agency and structure but have failed to acknowledge that emotions mediate this. I also want to point out that historians of the working class keep on throwing around the term ‘solidarity’ like it is a constant. The meaning of solidarity is not static, it means different things in different contexts and provokes a multitude of emotions.

Chapter One:
This chapter will outline the creation of a dock community in Liverpool and their core values. This looks into the collective memory of the docks, the history of working conditions and the lives of families who worked there. Hopefully, this will demonstrate that solidarity (whatever that means) encompasses anti-establishment attitudes, a focus on long-term gains, a right to work and live in a fair and just environment and that this should be accomplished together. This was central to the life of men and women with links to the docks. I have separated men and women here as a key characteristic of this community is that the docks were really a very male domain. These are the values that govern emotional behaviour.

Chapter Two:
This chapter builds upon the last by assessing the ways in which the values guided the behaviour of men and women during the dispute. Key emotions are repeated amongst the sources I am analysing, these are: pride, fear, love/happiness, stress and determination. For example, pride in a shared history of making gains in the workplace through working together and a fear of returning to casualism meant that crossing a picket line was not an option for the men. This chapter will also analyse the different notions of ‘solidarity’ in terms of men and women within the community and how the stress of the dispute affected men and women differently. The final, and most important, section of this chapter looks at this community in a post-1998 context.

Chapter Three:
This chapter will assess the limitations of solidarity as an emotional community has a point of exclusion with people who clearly differ in emotional norms and values being placed outside the group. I have not entirely figured out how I will approach this chapter, but I know that it will contain discussions of the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company, the Transport and General Workers Union and scabs.

This is a very simple outline, partly because I’m still working things out and partly because I want to keep my ideas to myself at this moment in time, but it makes me very excited to start writing up my analysis.

I’ll never be able to use the word ‘solidarity’ in the same way again.


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