We are delighted to announce details of CURA Annual Lecture 2019:
Speaker: Dr Sarah Marie Hall , the University of Manchester
Title: “From ‘community’ to ‘social infrastructures’? Repoliticising social relationships and responsibilities in austere times”
Date: Wednesday 12 June 2019
Venue: Hugh Aston Building, DeMontfort University, room HU0.08
This talk explores the uses and misuses of ideas of ‘community’ in times of austerity, alongside more recent developments around ‘social infrastructures’. Where state involvement, investment and responsibility has been sharply retreated over the last ten years of austerity Britain – and arguably more under the project of neoliberalism – it is to community members that policy-makers often look to shoulder the burden; from elderly and childcare, to community services, to educational and arts institutions. Whether filling the gap as volunteers, informal and formal care providers, or over-stretched public sector employees, this is also an inherently gendered burden, and so too an unequal one. Emerging critiques of the everyday politics of austerity have highlighted concerns about this simultaneous reliance on and erosion of social infrastructures, whereby the majority of state investments remains on physical infrastructure like transport, housing, military – what we might call ‘potholes over people’. This comes at the expense of investment in what Pearson and Elson (2015, p. 26) coin ‘social infrastructure’: the provision of ‘health [care], education, childcare, social housing and lifelong care which benefit all, not just the few’. I argue that the concept of social infrastructures offers further possibilities to connect socio-economic policies with everyday lives, centring the political in analysis, and acknowledging upfront that social relationships, like material infrastructures, require investment. However, critical work by feminist scholars and activists on social infrastructure have to date been typically misinterpreted at best or ignored at worse. I make the case for greater enagement with these ideas, including how an infrastructural approach focuses on interconnectedness and power dynamics between individuals involved in the everyday construction and maintenance of social infrastructures, which are likewise steeped in questions about deep-seated and structural inequalities.
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