TOWARDS A GEOGRAPHICAL ACCOUNT OF SHAME: FOOD BANKS, AUSTERITY AND THE SPACES OF AUSTERE AFFECTIVE GOVERNMENTALITY
TRANSACTIONS OF THE INSTITUTE OF BRITISH GEOGRAPHERS (2021), 46, 73-86
This paper is about shame, its geographies, and its role in the government of conduct in austerity Britain. Drawing on ethnographic and interview data from a Trussell Trust foodbank in the Valleys of South Wales, the geography of shame is investigated through its spatiality, temporality, and politics. Together, these avenues demonstrate how shame not only acts over those individual bodies experiencing food poverty but also realises an operation of power for pushing austere conducts onto collective populations. Reading shame in this fashion necessitates two critical interventions. First, this paper builds a geographical account of shame that provides an alternative route through psychological and sociological understandings – culminating in a re‐definition of shame as the feeling that emerges from a contested un‐covering of out‐of‐placeness. Second, this paper adds a geographical contribution to emergent theorisation of “affective governmentality.” By positioning “shameful subsistence” as a specific affective governmentality at a time of austerity, this paper departs from previous studies of governmentality that tend to emphasise the numerical and statistical as the primary “technical factors” used to govern life. This paper demonstrates how shame is not limited to the spaces and users of foodbanks: rather, shame is a central framework for understanding the contemporary politics of austerity both in the places it creates and through the feelings, behaviours, and values it encourages.
DEBT AND AUSTERITY: IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINANCIAL CRISIS (2020), 151-173
This chapter explores the changing relationship between debt, inequality and social reproduction in austerity Britain. By recounting the experiences of Cheryl, a single parent living in the Valleys of south Wales, this chapter argues that the gaps in provisioning created by austerity are at the same time being pursued as opportunities for the penetration of debt into everyday life. This double movement - of the increasing porosity of state-funded support alongside the heightened financialisation of reproductive labour - is theorised as austere social reproduction. This concept allows us to think about debt, social reproduction and austerity not as separate phenomenon, but as a nexus that is driven by, and further exacerbates, inequality.
GEOFORUM (2020), 110, 211-219
This paper contributes to emerging geographical literature on what is here conceptualised as ‘actually existing austerity’—referring to the uneven ways through which austerity is felt, negotiated, embodied and contested in the varied spatial tapestry of everyday life. Through theorisation of the contemporary operation of food banking in the UK, it will be argued that the gaps in provisioning (in this case, of food) left by welfare reform and state spending cuts in the UK under the guise of austerity are engendering new forms of responsibility that are unevenly distributed and performed—often by those already excluded, marginalised and impoverished. This localisation of responsibility has crucial implications for how austerity becomes embodied and negotiated, as well as the unequal material implications it holds for different people and places. This paper concludes by arguing for a future research agenda concerning actually existing austerity, signalling the need for 'thicker' and more grounded accounts of austerity at scales beyond the nation-state and/or city alone.
INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HUMAN GEOGRAPHY (2020), 55-59 (VOL. 2)
A long encyclopedia piece on the topic of 'people's geography.' People's geography centres on the relationship between the production of geographical knowledge and its everyday usage. It proposes that the central purpose of our discipline is not simply to study the world, but to intervene in it.
BOOK REVIEW IN URBAN GEOGRAPHY (2020), 1-2
A book review of Rowland Atkinson's 2020 book Alpha City: How London was Captured by the Super-rich (published by Verso Books)
POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY (2019), 75, 1-10
This paper develops a Foucauldian reading of the phenomenon of UK foodbanking. Rather than providing straightforward subsistence, Trussell Trust foodbanks exercise a vital politics that acts over hungry bodies at a time of austerity. Through conceptualisation of the vital technologies of biopower, this article draws attention to the three underpinning logics of this system: interpretation, provisioning and improvement. These techniques reveal a power over life that not only seeks to provide subsistence, but to transform hunger into a technical object through which needy bodies can be improved out of existence. However, this paper also highlights the limits of this biopolitical and disciplinary system by drawing attention to its scalar politics, specifically emphasising the everyday power of living that undermine techniques over the vital life of bodies and populations. In so doing, this paper calls for more sustained attention to how the politics of life is lived and lively, situated and multi-scalar, through conceptualisation of its vital geographies.
THE KING'S REVIEW VOLUME: EXTREMES (2017), 78-88
To understand what poverty is, we must first contemplate where it takes root. In attempting to do so, this article offers three in-depth ethnographic insights that go beyond simply mapping poverty, and instead bear witness to the acts of neogitation, organisation and survival that mark everyday life in deprived areas.
POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY (2014) 42 117-120
A long review commentary examining the recent Channel 4 television series 'Benefits Street' and its impacts upon viewings and perceptions of poverty, brought into conversation with several other key texts in the field.