What you will study
Wales is becoming increasingly distinctive from other parts of the UK, and this module has been produced as a response to the new post-devolution Wales that is emerging. Old images and understandings no longer apply: coal has been replaced by call centres, and Max Boyce by the Manic Street Preachers. Gender roles have changed, with women recently constituting a majority of the cabinet of the Welsh Assembly Government. Plaid Cymru, for decades a party of opposition, has been in coalition government, challenging Labour’s long-standing domination of politics. Yet rugby, although professionalised, continues to bind people in Wales together perhaps more than any other activity. The module identifies such continuities but also the changes, to examine how the meaning of Wales, and what it means to be Welsh, have been transformed.
The module opens with a case study of rugby and then explores Wales through two themes. The first is the differences that are to be found in Wales. ‘Place’ and belonging have a particular resonance in Wales, with different sorts of communities in north and south, rural and urban areas, the Valleys and, perhaps most distinctly, Cardiff, the capital city. Work divides people in Wales, with long-term unemployment, sometimes over several generations, in some communities, and increasing affluence in other places. Gender continues to be the basis of different opportunities and experiences; and matters of ‘race’ and gender have very specific dimensions in Wales. Notions of social class have changed, but there are powerful material inequalities and differences of lifestyle between the middle and working classes. The module examines the distinctly Welsh dimensions to these differences.
The second theme is the connections that have been forged between people in Wales. The module examines popular culture, the workings of the National Assembly, the Labour tradition, and the nationalist narrative. You will learn about the origins, issues and practices of these institutions and movements. This includes who is excluded from decision-making; the significance of the Welsh language; the kind of Wales that is represented in the arts and at the National Museum of Wales; the significance of popular culture (including Doctor Who and Gavin and Stacey); the distinct electoral system; the origins and significance of the ‘clear red water’ that defines Labour in Wales; and the often conflicting strands within nationalism. You will examine how these representations and institutions contribute to the construction of contemporary Wales.
The module will be extremely useful if you plan to work in Wales in any professional role because it will equip you to make sense of contemporary Welsh society and to understand the implications of policies, politics and cultural life in Wales. It will also provide you with core social sciences knowledge and skills that are relevant across a breadth of occupations.