N. Geoffrey Bright Feeling, Re-imagined in Common: Working with Social Haunting in the English Coalfields

in ‘The Routledge Handbook of Working Class Studies’ editors Michele Fazio, Christie Launius, Tim Strangleman (Routledge, forthcoming)


This forthcoming book chapter discusses the body of work I’ve brought together that focuses on the entanglement of affect and imagination in working-class experience and how it has played out in the UK at key moments of a thirty-year period of de-industrialisation. In doing that it tells the still developing story of a ‘social haunting’ that we capture on this website. I also explain why Working-Class Studies is the only field in which I have felt free to articulate such an account of the felt/imagined dimension of working-class life. In the chapter, I outline the general background to my work, summarise Avery Gordon’s approach and indicate how we’ve drawn on it, summarise all the research council funded projects as they’ve developed, and examine the theory and practice of the Ghost Labs. The chapter is, thus far, my most considered reflection on how working with social haunting actually unfolds and, for the first time, I describe the Labs’ distinguishing feature as a capacity to enable “a poetics of forces and intensities”, of “ordinary affects” in Kathleen Sewart’s term. Ghosts, I argue, are made material in the Labs by being transformed “from the apparitional through the concerted efforts of participants” as Paul Collins has put it in a recent inquiry into anthropology and haunting. Illustrating this process through three vignettes from actual Ghost Labs, I suggest that ‘feeling’, initially held privately, is made available for re-imagination in common. Being thus made common, it is thenceforward held in common once again as a renewed collective bond – a “resource of hope’, as Raymond Williams called it, and an essential part of those “auotonomous working working-class value practices” described recently by Beverley Skeggs.


You can contact Geoff Bright for enquiries about this or other publications here

Sarah McNicol “We can do it imaginatively first!”: Creating a magic circle in a radical community education setting

in ‘Studies in the Education of Adults’, 2017


Working with Social Haunting was a community-based participatory research project that aimed to investigate how contested pasts carry affective meanings in ways that defy conventional forms of knowledge representation. The project illustrated the potential of the use of playful approaches within adult learning, and specifically within a radical community educational approach that draws on transformative learning theory. This article reports on a workshop (or Ghost Lab) in which members of Unite the Community in Barnsley used the medium of comics to explore and re-imagine serious political themes. In this context, the Ghost Lab method established a ‘magic circle’, within which it was possible to circumvent ideological differences and allow for the exploration of fictional realities that, while they have a basis in the real world, are not limited by conventional codes of practice, rules or structures. This approach appeared to allow participants space to explore not just the ‘as if’ or ‘what if’, but also what Bloch (1986) has called the ‘not-yet’, thereby conjuring with both personal and political historical alternatives that could have been taken, but were not. By transforming their personal and political experiences through the creation of comics, participants were able to reflect on these experiences and consider how they might be interpreted in different ways within a ‘fictional reality’.

You can access the full article here 



Affective Community Being-ness after Brexit: a “CataLab” - a two-day listening-exchange and development laboratory, funded by the AHRC Connected Communities’ Catalyst Fund. Stoke-on-Trent. Dr Geoff Bright (MMU), Prof Valerie Walkerdine (Cardiff University), Co-operative College and Unite Community. (upcoming) Spring 2018


Classed affect and (social) haunting across global spaces, panel at Working Class Studies Association annual conference, Stony Brook University, NY. Valerie Walkerdine, Joseph Varga, Mark James, Geoff Bright. (upcoming) June 2018

Working with Social Haunting through ‘Ghost Labs’ at The Co-operative College’s third annual education conference, ‘Learning for Co-operative Transformations’, Dr Geoff Bright with Dr Sarah McNicol. April 2017

Multiplying “Ghost Labs” as an affect-space of concrete utopia at ‘European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry’. Leuven, Belgium. Dr Geoff Bright (co-created with Andrew McMillan and Max Munday). February 2017

Neither “future as embarrassment...nor the past as spell” (Bloch, 1995): Opening a Utopia Ghost Lab dialogue in a Post-Brexit context at Utopia and Connected Communities Conference. British Library. Dr Geoff Bright, Max Munday and Borderlines New Vic Theatre. December 2016

Spatialities of Haunting: Some implications for education in the ‘Geography Public Seminar Series’. Manchester Metropolitan University. Dr Geoff Bright. 2016

Becoming Ghost? Developing a collaborative process/event space for communal knowledge activism at ‘British Education Research Association Conference’, University of Leeds. Dr Geoff Bright September 2016

Hearing the ghosts of our past? Social haunting and the space to listen at ‘Heritage and Biography: narrating pasts, imagining futures’. Max Munday. University of Kent. September 2016

Working in ‘Ghost Labs’: Developing a process-space for critical creative/political/community practice at ‘How Class Works 2016’ Working Class Studies Association, Stony Brook University, NY. Dr Geoff Bright, Mark James and Max Munday. June, 2016

Working in ‘Ghost Labs’: Developing a collaborative process/event space of politicised intergenerational community re-imagination. Seminar. Dr Geoff Bright at University of Durham, May 2016

Working in ‘Ghost Labs’: Developing a collaborative process/event space of communal knowledge activism at ‘International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry’, Urbana-Champaign. Dr Geoff Bright and Dr Sarah McNicol, May 2016

Working with a social haunting: The continuing psychosocial impact of the 1984-85 Miners strike. Presented at ‘With Banners Held High’, Wakefield. Dr Geoff Bright. March 2016

 Experiencing political hauntings through comics, ‘Comics Forum’, Leeds. Sarah McNicol, November 2015