[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Media student 'expert on chavs'
By Alison Smith
BBC News website education reporter

Burberry shop front
Designer label Burberry was linked to 'chavs'
A student has shed light on popular fascination with "chavs" by writing a degree dissertation on the subject.

Verity Jennings gained a first-class mark for her 10,000-word thesis on the media portrayal of young people identified by "street-style" dress.

The Leeds Metropolitan University student looked at 890 newspaper stories featuring the word "chav" from last summer to early this year.

Some tabloids could be guilty of "chavaphobia", Ms Jennings said.

She focused on the language used and the context in which "chavs" were mentioned.

Moral panic

Dr Neil Washbourne, a senior lecturer in media and popular culture, supervised her dissertation, entitled Chavs - subculture or chavaphobia?

He said the label "chav" was in part a product of media concerns about anti-social behaviour in town centres.

"Verity considered two theories - that chav is a subculture which differentiates itself from the rest of society - and that it is term describing undesirable features picked upon by the media.

"Chavs are often mentioned with regard to asbos and anti-social behaviour, but the high-class can also be "chav". People with money can choose how they live and dress."

Actress Danniella Westbrook
Tabloids have dubbed several wealthy TV personalities 'chavs'

Being rich and famous is no bar to being a chav - the dissertation covered tabloid stories featuring personalities such as Victoria Beckham and Danniella Westbrook - as well as lottery winner Michael Carroll.

Dr Washbourne said he and Ms Jennings, 22, coined the word "chavaphobia" to reflect this moral panic directed at chavs in the media.

He said it was clear that undertones of class and snobbery were still dominant in the coverage of chavs, and the emergence of the term raised the question of how our society deals with separation and class.

Ms Jennings, originally from Droitwich Spa in Worcestershire, found chav was not a simple subculture.

Unlike other subcultures such as punk, it has no link to music, a specific ideal or mode of behaviour.

Ms Jennings' course also included modules in 20th century media history, television and film.

End of chavs?

She found stories about chavs reached a peak in December 2004 with 114 published that month alone.

So does this mean the chav has had its day?

Dr Washbourne thinks the idea must resonate with the public, since the word has caught on and has attracted media coverage over a sustained period.

However, Ms Jennings was unable to discover concrete proof of the word's origin.

Theories have abounded since it came into common parlance.

As the Romany word for a young boy, some have suggested it has crossed into the English language, though Dr Washbourne says this is probably unlikely.

But equally it is not possible to prove that it stands for "council house and violent".

Ms Jennings gained a 2:1 overall for her degree.

Pub-goers facing 'Burberry' ban
20 Aug 04 |  Leicestershire
New lines lift Burberry profits
24 May 04 |  Business
'Chav ban' plan to deter thefts
04 Nov 04 |  Northamptonshire

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific