21 January 2010

World Class and Social Class

The topic of social class is often a divisive one, in more ways than one.

Not only is it difficult to agree on a suitable definition of social class, the importance of social class is also a topic of debate. Do you ever identify yourself in terms of social class?

Most people in the Western world seem to think they are middle class. In other parts of the world, there are varying categorizations of people. Social class is often confused with economic classifications and religious classifications, even by social scientists.

Some people are perceived as second class citizens, others as very important people. Here are some photographs for you to think about in terms of social class:

I took the above picture while visiting the Amazon in Brazil in 1987. The person in the boat may be doing a spot of fishing. Your perceptions of social class in this example many depend on whether you think the person is trying to find an urgent source of protein for their family or merely enjoying a few moments of recreation.

This example, above, was taken as I made a journey through Pakistan in an old London double decker bus in 1985. How many aspects of social class are represented in this photograph?

Here is a picture I took more recently, in 2007, while going along the road on the top deck of a tram in Hong Kong. How would you categorize the class of the construction workers in comparison to the people in the previous two pictures?

And what about the character in this picture? What might her social class be? If you have explored her ancestry, you will know that her class background perhaps only differs slightly in comparison to the people in the other pictures above.

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