“Home grown alligator, see you later, gotta hit the road, gotta hit the road”

George Ezra grew up in Bengeo, Hertfordshire. And so did I.

In recent weeks, I’ve seen a few articles remembering and celebrating the glory of riding bikes as a child. The children’s author Steven Herrick wrote

“There’s nothing quite like the relationship of a child to their bicycle, the endless adventures two wheels and a pair of strong legs offers”

and just a few days later Jools Walker, co-founder of the Women of Colour Cycling Group, echoed this:

“Some of my happiest childhood memories are on my BMX Burner, the bike I inherited as a seven-year-old from my big sister. It wasn’t new or flashy like other kids’ bikes at school, nor was it the bike that I secretly desired, but that didn’t matter. That red and yellow beauty sparked friendships – and an obsession with life on two wheels.

After school and on weekends, I’d meet up with my friends, a mix of kids from my class and new friends I’d made cycling around my housing estate. Our favourite time for bike adventures was the summer holidays: six glorious weeks of long, bright days, with no school to interrupt our time. Parks, other housing estates and even building sites (definitely a place where you need reliable tyres) became our adventure playgrounds to explore.”

Which brings us back to George Ezra and Bengeo. I didn’t know George (he’s a tiny bit younger than me), but I like to think he was inspired by his Bengeo childhood and that we shared some of the same adventures and pleasures around Bengeo’s streets.

I moved to Bengeo when I was 7 and a half. My parents had just divorced, so I was living with my mum and my brother, then 9 and a half. I was already at school in Bengeo, but we’d been driving to school by car 9 miles along the A10 from Wormley. We had a big house and a big garden in Wormley but the only, vague, memories I have of cycling there are of my brother and I trundling up and down this back lane (the van was probably there then too). The road we lived on had been the A10, and even though a new dual carriageway had been built, traffic was still heavy.

That all seemed to change when we moved to Bengeo. We were now living on a quiet residential street in what was basically a suburb of Hertford. We were about a mile from Hertford town centre, surrounded only by other residential streets, in an interwining and connected pattern. Beyond this built up area, there were vast expanses of country lanes and green fields, many of which turned yellow in the rapeseed season. This all became my roaming zone. Our bikes weren’t cool – we each had a folding bike, mine red, my brother’s light blue; they were new and I guess we got them as it was easy to move them between my mum’s house and my dad’s. It had three Sturmey Archer gears, I think my first bike with gears.

My bike looked a bit like this

We kind of had two modes of riding, and I mean, mostly, my brother and I. We rode from our back gate around the neighbouring streets, through alleyways, to local shops, making the most of the endless loops you could ride through crescents, closes, and pedestrian cut-throughs.

We loved riding to these shops, on The Avenue, where we’d buy sweets, fizzy drinks, or comics, post letters for our mum, and make prank phone calls form the phone boxes that used to sit behind these parked cars (on the right). We could cut through a little path that you can just make out beyond the cars, where, now I think about it, I remember a cherry tree and a small patch of grass, where we’d often stop, maybe to eat those sweets.

It was about half a mile from our house to the shops, but we could cycle miles on these streets, just going round in circles. We were on the top of a hill (Upper Bengeo, apparently) which meant that much of this riding was level, but we could easily find some good hills for thrills if we wanted.

Bengeo is divided by one main-ish road, the B158, so much of our riding was on “our” side, to the west of this road. The other side didn’t feel as familiar, but we did still seek out corner shops there – I had the vaguest memory of this one, and took a trip down Google Streeview memory lane to find it. And it was this side that led down to Hartham Common, a big green space on the edge of Hertford town centre, that gave us space to play and a safe route into the town centre, via the Norman church of St Leonards.

We’d also head further west, down a steep unpaved track or along unassuming alleyways, to Mole Wood (Great and Little) where we could paddle, catch tadpoles, and head through the woods to loop back into Bengeo.

These trips to Mole Wood led us into our second mode, which was to take the lanes out of Bengeo to the countryside and small villages to the north. I don’t know if we stayed mainly on the local streets for a bit after we moved to Bengeo and then progressed to these longer journeys. My mum’s recollection is that we cycled pretty freely from the moment we moved there. My mum remembers that she used to give us instructions:

“First left, second right, third right and so on until it brought you back home.”

I don’t remember this, but I do remember her packing us picnics and my brother and me riding off down Sacombe Road to Waterford or Bulls Mill. These roads were single-track lanes, with passing places. They were steep in places, which meant you could get a good speed up and surf round gentle bends. We would meet cars but I don’t have any recollection of feeling at risk.

I had a friend at Bulls Mill, so sometimes we’d cycle there. Sometimes we’d ride to Waterford Marsh, a place I’d all but forgotten but memories of picnics, wading, cow-pat dodging, and sitting in the sun came flooding back when I saw these photos. We’d stop and play pooh sticks as Vicarage Road crossed the River Beane in Waterford. The River Beane, after which Bengeo was named, featured quite heavily in our journeys. Our roaming-riding distances increased and we’d get as far as Stapleford (3 miles) and Watton-at-Stone (5 miles). These longer distances would mean we’d be back on bigger roads, including the A119 from Hertford to Stevenage. I’m guessing we didn’t cycle these till we were a bit older and maybe stuck to the pavements. We’d be out cycling for a good few hours, often the best part of the day.

These were increasingly holiday bike rides, because within a year both my brother and I were at boarding schools, so the ordinary, everyday cycling wasn’t possible. But these adventures, longer and shorter, were a major feature of our school holidays through our early teens.

I moved back to a school in Hertford for sixth form, and suddenly all those streets I’d been riding round became animated by local friends. I cycled to school most days, down a big hill and up another, with two new friends whose houses I would have passed hundreds of times on my earlier bike rides. We cycled to each other’s houses at evenings and weekends, as teenagers do, and then started cycling to pubs, before we could drive. I skived school one day (I don’t recall why!) and skidded on wet leaves under a horse chestnut tree as I rounded the corner onto my street. I fell off my bike and smashed my front tooth – a crown in my mouth, 30 years later, tells this tale. I always imagined somehow the accident was punishment for skiving school. I don’t even remember the bike I had then. We all learnt to drive, but our bikes were still important to us. One of my friends had an old postman’s bike that he was inordinately proud of, superseded only by his red VW Beetle a few years later.

Where I skidded off; there are still wet leaves

I kept cycling. I’ve always had a bike, through university and beyond. It’s always been one of my modes of transport and sources of pleasure. When I was 19, I inherited a car from a family friend. Determined not to become dependent on the car, I set out to cycle to Hertford Library during the holidays to do some university work. God knows why, but I took my work in a plastic bag on my handlebars. You remember I mentioned the steep hill?

I cycled down this with a plastic bag on my handlebars. I crashed into one of these houses (the cars clearly weren’t there!). Almost 30 years later, I remember losing control, I remember being about to crash, and I remember lying on the pavement waiting for someone to help me. They did, I went in an ambulance for the first and only time in my life, and I was fine. No major injuries, but I ripped my favourite shirt (a white collarless one from Carnaby Street).

But none of this put me off. I kept cycling. A few years later, living in Birmingham, I had friends who cycled more seriously and I rode with them. For the first time since childhood, I’d spend whole days cycling, getting to know the places around me, building relationships, having fun.

Why am I telling you all this? Partly, because those memories of freely cycling for hours on end, through my neighbourhood and beyond, have come back to me in recent weeks and months, as my nine year old daughter has been able to cycle round her neighbourhood and as I’ve been cycling more and more too, most recently on my brand new bike. I wanted to remember and record the details, material, sensual and emotional, of those times.

But mostly because all these experiences of childhood cycling gave me something, or a few things.

They enabled me to explore, learn about, map, imagine, inhabit and connect to my home, street and neighbourhood, to feel attached to it. When we started, we’d just moved to Bengeo and my parents had just divorced so maybe this was especially important to me, and doing it all with my brother all the more so. That I went away to school probably sharpened this need for connection, both that when I came home it felt important to reconnect, to re-map and to feel like I belonged again, but also that I could hold on to these stories, images and attachments when I wasn’t at home. I loved knowing my neighbourhood, where all the streets and alleys led, what the lanes felt like (and have loved recalling all these places here). That I then got a chance to ride these streets and lanes with friends, on the way to school, as I grew older, reinforced and extended my connections to this place. Only a couple of months ago, driving through some Hertfordshire lanes (not the same ones I cycled, but not far away), I felt that thrill of recognition, memories of freedom and of joy. And I still take pleasure in knowing the ins-and-outs of my neighbourhood, now in North Shields, of mapping the streets and animating them with friendships, landmarks, senses.

These bike rides also gave me a growing sense of ‘independent’ mobility. My mum trusted us – and the environment – and we carried that trust with us. We had no doubt that we could ride these streets and be safe. There were certainly fewer cars, and we were often on quiet streets, but we went further and onto busier roads as our confidence, skills, and knowledge grew, such that by our teenage years we happily cycled all around Hertford and well beyond, for fun, for school, for errands, to meet friends.

But our mobility wasn’t really independent – for years, my brother and I were together on these trips, and later we were with friends; as I got older I cycled more by myself, but a lot of my childhood cycling was accompanied, just not by an adult.

All of these experiences gave me a sense that I have a right to the road, on my bike, but also the skills and the confidence to ride on the roads that I carry with me now. I hate close passes, busy junctions and impatient drivers as much as any cyclist, but I can cope with them. Growing up as a cyclist has also made me, I think, a better driver.

And, of course, all these bike rides gave me a delight in the immense joys of cycling, despite the smashed tooth and the ripped shirt. I loved those bike rides with my brother, to the shops and to lanes beyond; I loved the speed, the lightness, the curves, the wind in my hair. I loved the friendships formed on bike rides to school and more slowly home, stopping at shops and friends’ houses. I loved cycling home from campus as a student – I remember cycling back one night, after seeing Keanu Reeves’ Point Break, and feeling like I was surfing on my bike. I felt like that again yesterday on my new bike, riding along our seafront. And just as cycling supported my teenage friendships, I still love bumping into friends and stopping to chat whilst cycling, in a way that just doesn’t happen in a car. Everyone should be able to enjoy the many exquisite pleasures of cycling.

I’ve had a good few years when I’ve barely cycled and even now, I don’t go out for long bike rides. I increasingly cycle to the shops, to friends, and will cycle to work, when I’m not working at home, and I cycle for fun, with my daughter and with friends, when I can. So I do cycle, quite a lot.

I’m now a geographer and an activist with a profound commitment to creating spaces for children, their families and communities to explore, play in, and connect with. I have no doubt that what I do now comes from these childhood experiences (and others). I loved all these bike rides because I’m a geographer (I think I always have been) and I’m a geographer because of all these bike rides (and much more).

Not everyone needs to be a geographer, but everyone should have the chance to enjoy cycling, from a young age, so that they too might explore and connect to their neighbourhoods, develop the confidence to move where they want to with others and by themselves, and experience the joy of spinning along, of getting tired, of being outside, and taking notice.

That all these personal pleasures also translate into social goods makes enabling children to cycle from an early age all the more powerful. Enjoying cycling and being given the chance, and the confidence, to explore and connect to the people and places in our communities through cycling will help us to build a healthier, safer, livelier, and happier world.

Updated and Consolidated List of References and Links on the Social Geographies (Broadly Defined) of Recession and Austerity

Because of the very contemporary nature of these issues, much of the best material on the social geographies (broadly defined) of recession and austerity is only beginning to be formally published, but much is accessible through newspaper columns and blogs, both by academics and by others.

Previous versions of this list are accessible here and here, but I hope I’ve included all I’ve previously referenced in this updated and consolidated list.

This page doesn’t look very pretty – I may tidy it up sometime, but I think, at least, all the links work. Let me know (alison.stenning@ncl.ac.uk) if they don’t – and let me know if you know of publications I could add. Thanks!

There’s an article about some ‘austerity’ blogs here: http://www.theguardian.com/media/shortcuts/2013/jul/07/rise-and-rise-of-austerity-blog

These are some of the most interesting, and some other links that document the experience of austerity in the UK today.

Geographer Danny Dorling writes widely about inequality, poverty, and most recently, austerity. Search his most recent publications here: http://www.dannydorling.org

http://agirlcalledjack.com – Blog by Jack Monroe who has published particularly about food and food poverty; her Guardian columns (and recipes!) are available here: http://www.theguardian.com/profile/jack-monroe

http://katebelgrave.com – “Talking with people dealing with public sector cuts”. Kate Belgrave’s Guardian columns are here: http://www.theguardian.com/profile/kate-belgrave

http://mumvausterity.blogspot.co.uk – Bernadette Horton, “a mum of 4 fighting everyday battles against austerity – and hoping to win!”

From Guardian Witness, personal accounts (https://witness.theguardian.com/assignment/52933b6ee4b0fc237c3f02c9) and Patrick Butler’s Cuts Blog (http://www.theguardian.com/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog).

Patrick Butler is The Guardian’s editor of society, health and education policy. His articles can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/profile/patrickbutler.

The Telegraph’s ‘Recession Tour” of 2008: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/recession/uk-recession-telegraph-tour/

The journalist Mary O’Hara’s book Austerity Bites ”chronicles the true impact of austerity on people at the sharp end, based on her ‘real-time’ 12-month journey around the country just as the most radical reforms were being rolled out in 2012 and 2013” (http://www.austeritybitesuk.com/). Her Guardian page (http://www.theguardian.com/profile/maryohara) has links to all sorts of different articles on related issues (welfare, legal aid, disability, mental health etc.). You can also find her discussing “Austerity Economies and Mental Health” on Madness Radio http://www.madnessradio.net/austerity-economies-and-mental-health-mary-ohara-madness-radio/

 

In addition, there are numerous policy and charity reports on the effects and experiences of austerity and recession.

The Centre for Human Rights Practice at Warwick University has compiled a very comprehensive list of “Reports on the Impact of Public Spending Cuts on Different Disadvantaged Groups within the UK” which can be found here

Others include:

Real Life Reform – “an important and unique study that tracks over a period of 18 months how people are living and coping with welfare reforms across the North of England” – there are six reports available here: http://www.northern-consortium.org.uk/reallifereform

The Association of North East Council’s report on The Impact of Welfare Reform in the North East: http://www.northeastcouncils.gov.uk/curo/downloaddoc.asp?id=601

Voices of Britainhttp://voicesofbritain.com – “A Snapshot of the Condition of Britain in 2013” from the Institute of Public Policy Research

The Family and Parenting Institute’s work on Families in the Age of Austerity: http://www.familyandparenting.org/our_work/Families-in-the-Age-of-Austerity/Family+Matters.htm

The charity Gingerbread has research the effect of austerity on single parents in a project called Paying the price: Single parents in the age of austerity (http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/content/1813/Paying-the-price).

Relate and a range of other organisations produced a report on Relationships, Recession and Recovery: The role of relationships in generating social recovery (http://www.relate.org.uk/policy-campaigns/publications/relationships-recession-and-recovery-role-relationships-generating-social-recovery)

The Campaign for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Working Group for the North East produced this report on the impact of austerity measures on women in the North East: http://wbg.org.uk/pdfs/NEWN-impact-of-austerity-measures-case-study-(June-2013)-.pdf

Other sites/organisations include the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Shelter, Poverty and Social Exclusion (http://www.poverty.ac.uk) and the New Economics Foundation. Search for these online and see what you can find.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has continued to analyse the reform of welfare budgets, including in this report on living standards: http://www.jrf.org.uk/publication/will-2015-summer-budget-improve-living-standards-2020.

For an Irish perspective, have a look at http://irelandafternama.wordpress.com – a blog written mostly by geographers on Ireland’s experience of financial crisis and austerity.

 

There is a useful summary of the 2012 reforms here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_Reform_Act_2012.

Other summaries can be found here:

The government: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/simplifying-the-welfare-system-and-making-sure-work-pays

Child Poverty Action Group: http://www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/CPAG_factsheet_the%20cuts_May13.pdf

Local Government Information Unit: http://www.lgiu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Welfare-Reform-Act-20121.pdf

Some of the emerging academic and related work…

Allen, K., Tyler, I. and De Benedictis, S. (2014). Thinking with ‘White Dee’: The gender politics of ‘austerity porn’, Sociological Research Online, 19/3, http://www.socresonline.org.uk/19/3/2.html.

Atkinson, W., Roberts, S. & Savage, M. (eds.) (2012) Class Inequality in Austerity Britain, Palgrave MacMillan: Basingstoke. (The first chapter is available to download here: http://www.palgrave.com/PDFs/9781137016379.pdf)

Bailey, N., Bramley, G. and Hastings, A. (2015) Symposium Introduction: Local responses to ‘austerity’, Local Government Studies, ahead-of-print.

Bambra C. (2013) ‘All in it together’? Health inequalities, austerity and the ‘Great Recession’, Health in Austerity, Demos: London. http://www.demos.co.uk/publications/healthinausterity [see also a brief report at http://classonline.org.uk/blog/item/paying-the-highest-price-austerity-will-accelerate-area-health-inequalities]

Bambra, C. and Garthwaite, K. (2015) Austerity, welfare reform and the English health divide, Area, 47/3, 341-343.

Beatty, C. and Fothergill, S. (2013) Hitting the Poorest Places Hardest: The Local and Regional Impact of Welfare Reform, http://www.shu.ac.uk/research/cresr/sites/shu.ac.uk/files/hitting-poorest-places-hardest_0.pdf

Brown, G. (2013) The revolt of aspirations: contesting neoliberal social hope, ACME http://www.acme-journal.org/vol12/Brown2013.pdf

Clayton, J., Donovan, C. and Merchant, J. (2015) Distancing and limited resourcefulness: Third sector service provision under austerity localism in the north east of England, Urban Studies, ahead-of-print.

Clayton, J., Donovan, C. and Merchant, J. (2015) Emotions of austerity: Care and commitment in public service delivery in the North East of England, Emotion, Space and Society, 14, 24-32.

Copeland, A., Kasim, A. and Bambra, C. (2015). Grim up North or Northern grit? Recessions and the English spatial health divide (1991–2010). Journal of Public Health, 37/1, 34-39.

Crossley, S. and Slater, T. (2014) Articles: Benefits Street: territorial stigmatisation and the realization of a ‘(tele)vision of divisions’, Values and Value Blog, https://values.doc.gold.ac.uk/blog/18/.

Donald, B., Glasmeier, A., Gray, M. and Lobao, L. (2014) Austerity in the city: economic crisis and urban service decline? Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 7/1, 3-15.

Dowler, E. and Lambie-Mumford, H. (2014) Rising use of “food aid” in the United Kingdom, British Food Journal, 116/9, 1418-1425.

Dowler, E. and Lambie-Mumford, H. (2015) How can households eat in austerity? Challenges for social policy in the UK, Social Policy and Society, 14/3, 417-428.

Dowler, E. and Lambie-Mumford, H. (2015) Introduction: Hunger, food and social policy in austerity, Social Policy and Society, 14/3, 411-415.

Flaherty, J. and Banks, S. (2013) In whose interest? The dynamics of debt in poor households, Journal of Poverty & Social Justice, 21/3, 219-232.

Fraser, A., Murphy, E. and Kelly, S. (2013) Deepening neoliberalism via austerity and ‘reform’: The case of Ireland, Human Geography, 6, 38-53.

Garthwaite, K., Collins, P. and Bambra, C. (2015) Food for thought: An ethnographic study of negotiating ill health and food insecurity in a UK foodbank, Social Science & Medicine, 132, 38-44.

Hall, S. M. (2015) Everyday ethics of consumption in the austere city, Geography Compass, 9/3, 140-151.

Hall, S. M. (2015). Everyday family experiences of the financial crisis: getting by in the recent economic recession. Journal of Economic Geography, online first.

Hall, S. M. and Jayne, M. (2015) Make, mend and befriend: geographies of austerity, crafting and friendship in contemporary cultures of dressmaking in the UK, Gender, Place & Culture, ahead-of-print.

Hamnett, C. (2010) Moving the poor out of central London? The implications of the coalition government 2010 cuts to Housing Benefits, Environment and Planning A, 42/12, 2809-2819.

Hamnett, C. (2011) The reshaping of the British welfare system and its implications for geography and geographers, Progress in Human Geography, 35/2, 147-152.

Hamnett, C. (2013) Shrinking the welfare state: the structure, geography and impact of British government benefit cuts, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Early View Online.

Hancock, L. and Mooney, G. (2013) “Welfare ghettos” and the “Broken Society”: Territorial stigmatization in the contemporary UK, Housing, Theory and Society, 30/1, 46-64.

Harrison, E. (2013) Bouncing back? Recession, resilience and everyday lives, Critical Social Policy, 33/1, 97-113.

Hodkinson, S. and Robbins, G. (2013) The return of class war conservatism? Housing under the UK coalition government, Critical Social Policy, 33/1, 57-77.

Horton, J. (2015) Young people and debt: getting on with austerities. Area, online first.

Jacobs, K. and Manzi, T. (2013) New localism, old retrenchment: The “Big Society”, housing policy and the politics of welfare reform, Housing, Theory and Society, 30/1, 29-45

Jensen, T. (2014). Welfare commonsense, poverty porn and doxosophy, Sociological Research Online, 19/3, http://www.socresonline.org.uk/19/3/3.html.

Jensen, T. and Tyler, I. (2013) Austerity parenting: New economies of parent citizenship, Studies in the Maternal, 4/2 http://www.mamsie.bbk.ac.uk/back_issues/4_2/editorial.html

Jensen, T. and Tyler, I. (2015) ‘Benefits broods’: The cultural and political crafting of anti-welfare commonsense, Critical Social Policy, online first.

Jones, G., Meegan, R., Kennett, P. and Croft, J. (2015) The uneven impact of austerity on the voluntary and community sector: A tale of two cities, Urban Studies, ahead-of-print.

Kennett, P., Jones, G., Meegan, R. and Croft, J. (2015) “Recession, austerity and the ‘Great Risk Shift’: Local government and household impacts and responses in Bristol and Liverpool, Local Government Studies, ahead-of-print.

[The two papers above, and Meegan et al (2014) below, come from a research project on “The uneven impact of recession on cities and households: Bristol and Liverpool compared”. More details and publications can be found here: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/sps/esrcunevenimpact/. Their website has links to a range of background documents, including a review of ‘grey literatures’ on the “Impact of the Recession and Period of Austerity on Households”, http://www.bris.ac.uk/sps/esrcunevenimpact/findingssofar/otherpapers.html.]

Koch, I. (2014) ‘A policy that kills’: The bedroom tax is an affront to basic rights, http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/a-policy-that-kills-the-bedroom-tax-is-an-affront-to-basic-rights/

Lambie-Mumford, H. (2013) ‘Every town should have one’: emergency food banking in the UK. Journal of Social Policy, 42/1, 73-89.

Lambie-Mumford, H. and Jarvis, D. (2012) The role of faith-based organisations in the Big Society: opportunities and challenges, Policy Studies, 33/3, 249-262.

Loopstra, R., et al. (2015) Austerity, sanctions, and the rise of food banks in the UK.” British Medical Journal h1775. http://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h1775.short

MacDonald, R., Shildrick, T. and Furlong, A. (2014). ‘Benefits Street’ and the myth of workless communities, Sociological Research Online, 19/3, http://www.socresonline.org.uk/19/3/1.html.

Meegan, R., Kennett, P., Jones, G. and Croft, J. (2014) Global economic crisis, austerity and neoliberal urban governance in England, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 7/1, 137-153.

O’Hara, M. (2014) Austerity Bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK, Policy Press: Bristol.

Pearce, J. (2013) Commentary: Financial crisis, austerity policies, and geographical inequalities in health, Environment and Planning A, 45/9, 2030-2045.

Purdam, K., Garratt, E. and Esmail, A. (2015) Hungry? Food insecurity, social stigma and embarrassment in the UK, Sociology, ahead of print.

Ridge, T. (2013) ‘We are all in this together’? The hidden costs of poverty, recession and austerity policies on Britain’s poorest children, Children & Society, 27/5, 406-417.

Schrecker, T. and Bambra, C. (2015) How Politics Makes Us Sick: Neoliberal Epidemics, Palgrave Macmillan: London.

Schrecker, T. and Bambra, C. (2015) Neoliberal epidemics: the spread of austerity, obesity, stress and inequality, The Conversation, http://theconversation.com/neoliberal-epidemics-the-spread-of-austerity-obesity-stress-and-inequality-46416

Slater, T. (2011) From ‘criminality’ to marginality: Rioting against a broken state, Human Geography, 4/3, http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/geography/homes/tslater/RiotingAgainstABrokenState.pdf

Slater, T. (2014) The myth of ‘Broken Britain’: welfare reform and the production of ignorance, Antipode 46/4, 948-969.

Stenning, A. (2013) The Costs of Austerity [blog post] https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/alisonstenning/the-costs-of-austerity/

Stuckler, D. and Basu, S. (2013) The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills. Basic Books.

Tyler, I. (2013) The riots of the underclass? Stigmatisation, mediation and the government of poverty and disadvantage in neoliberal Britain, Sociological Research Online, 18(4) http://www.socresonline.org.uk/18/4/6.html

See also the themed issue of Critical Social Policy on “Social Policy in an Age of Austerity” in August 2012 (32/3)

Call for Interest: Emotional Geographies conference, June 2015

 Everyday Relations with/in Economic Insecurities

Roundtable and workshop sessions at the Emotional Geographies Conference, Edinburgh 10-12 June 2015

Convenors Alison Stenning (Newcastle University, UK) and Kye Askins (University of Glasgow, UK)

The impacts of cuts, freezes and squeezes have attracted considerable attention across the UK, Europe and in other parts of the west in recent years, echoing longstanding concerns in parts of the global south (Oxfam 2013). Economic crisis and the austerity policies designed to respond to crisis have ushered in widespread experiences of economic insecurity. This sense of insecurity has spread to include marginalised communities and those who, until recently, lived with relative stability in their everyday economic lives.

This session seeks to explore what everyday economic insecurity feels like. What kinds of emotions and emotional relations are produced by the material realities of economic insecurity? What does a focus on the emotional offer to understanding everyday relations – with family, friends, neighbours, communities and strangers, as well as with institutions, organisations and the state – as they develop, shift and emerge through old and new economic insecurities? What roles might blame, stigma, embarrassment, anger and fear play in these relations and geographies of insecurity? How do care, concern and love factor into lives marked by insecurity? And what kinds of relations nudge struggling and coping with economic insecurity into escaping it – and vice versa?

Further, given feminist, postcolonial and other calls to pay attention to voice, agency and resistance, how might the lens of everyday emotions speak back to policy and practice? Can taking a critical approach to mundane, embodied emotions and relations facilitate knowledges and ways of knowing that may translate into governmental policy and/or institutional practices?

We are also keen to explore what the ethical and emotional demands of working on these issues and with people in precarious positions are. In the widest sense, ethics themselves are relations: as academics we are ourselves interwoven in webs of relations through our (often more than) research. We hope to tease out discussion on methodological approaches and personal reflections, in which paying attention to our own and others’ emotions is central.

We are particularly interested in work/research/practice that considers such questions in the context of:

  • housing and notions of home
  • employment/underemployment/unemployment
  • unpaid labour – emotional labour – caring activity
  • food, food poverty and foodbanks
  • health, ill health, disability
  • welfare … and its relation to wellbeing
  • debt and wider notions of indebtedness (financial and otherwise)
  • money and alternative economies

We wish to convene two sessions on these issues. First, a Roundtable discussion, in which ‘key participants’ briefly outline their thoughts and raise questions for 5 minutes each, before opening out to round the room debate. Second, and building on central themes emerging from the Roundtable, we hope to facilitate a workshop session to further explore conceptual, methodological and ethical issues in smaller groups.

If you would like to offer comments as a key participant, please get in touch with us by Nov. 10th (details below), with a brief outline of your interest. We are especially keen to encourage postgraduate, early career researchers and people who are just beginning to work on these themes to take part, with an emphasis on learning and sharing experiences and ideas. We also wish to support non-academic involvement, and are talking with conference organisers to see how best to facilitate this.  We intend the second session to be developed with all who wish to participate, and if you have specific ideas/thoughts on this, please email us.

So please get in touch with any comments, questions or to outline your interest in being a key participant – contact one or both co-convenors at alison.stenning@ncl.ac.uk and Kye.Askins@glasgow.ac.uk