Endless Pressure 40 Years On: Revisiting Ken Pryce’s Study of West Indian Life-Styles in Bristol

Project Details


Ken Pryce’s Endless Pressure, a ground-breaking sociological study of African-Caribbeans in Bristol, was published forty years ago in 1979. Pryce, a Jamaican PhD student at the University of Bristol from 1969-1973, investigated the effects of racism and discrimination on the lives and well being of ‘West Indians’ then living mainly in the St. Paul’s area of Bristol. Interested in the ‘lifestyles, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours’ of ordinary people, Pryce adopted an innovative but controversial version of participant/observation research methods in order to identify ‘what adaptive mechanisms this group evolved to achieve their life goals in the face of overwhelming odds’. He identified a number of subcultures within the community, examining how their members variously perceived and coped with the pressures they encountered.
Forty years on, many of the original participants in Pryce’s study are still living in Bristol. This project will be the first to revisit Pryce’s research by conducting and filming in depth oral history interviews with five of them (they have already agreed to participate, should we secure funding). Interviewees will be asked to reflect on, among other things, the strategies they adopted to cope with racism at the time of Pryce’s study and those they subsequently developed; whether and how they achieved their life goals; whether and how their perceptions of living well with difference have changed over the past four decades.
Endless Pressure provided a landmark empirical account of Caribbean people young and old in Britain. It influenced Caryl Phillips’ Strange Fruit (1981) as well as making an important contribution to debates on race, racism, migration and community within sociology and cultural studies through the ‘80s and ‘90s. Though sociologists of race have made criticisms of the work (for instance, its relative neglect of gender), they continue to regard it as a classic text. However, less specialist audiences today are rarely familiar with the study. One aim of this project is to revitalise interest in Pryce’s work and make it known to a wider audience and explore its relevance to the contemporary experience of young African Caribbean people and other non-white people who can identify. A second aim is to document and celebrate the life stories of people who are now elders in Bristol’s African Caribbean community, make those stories known, and reflect on what they can teach us about living well in older age, and living well with the past, as well as living with difference. In this way, the project will enrich understandings of Bristol’s African-Caribbean History and foster intergenerational and intercommunity dialogue, as well as facilitating a dialogue between community and academics that we hope could lead to a funding bid for a fuller and more systematic restudy of Endless Pressure.
Effective start/end date8/01/2031/07/20


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