Hosted by Speri, the second event in the Recovery to Discovery seminar series (16-17 April, 2015) brought together interdisciplinary researchers to investigate the challenges faced by UK households under austerity and to rethink recovery in a radical way, taking gender and social reproduction fully into account.
Daniela Tepe-Belfrage, Politics, University of Sheffield and Goldsmiths, and Johnna Montgomerie from PERC started off the event by juxtaposing the ways in which moral discourses of recovery, combined with post-crisis social policy interventions, have targeted poor women whilst leaving the moral deficit in the banking industry largely untouched. Elaborated by Angus Cameron, Management School, Leicester University, the articulation of poor people’s lives as ‘wasteful’ and immoral has a long history in obfuscating the dynamics of capitalism; from the near collapse of Endemol, producer of day time TV show Super Scrimpers, in the wake of the Eurozone crisis to the more malevolent history of witch hunts. The afternoon panel saw presentations from Emma Dowling, Sociology, Middlesex University and Ruth Cain, Law, Kent University addressing the theme of social reproduction in the wake of the crisis. Seeing the increased financialisation and commodification of the sphere of social reproduction in the wake of the crisis, Dowling’s investigation of voluntary work argued that albeit the sphere is becoming increasingly valorised this by no means guards against the continuous exploitation of unpaid labour. Cain’s in-depth analysis of universal credit extended the theme of lone and low-paid mothers as responsibilised for recovery.
The second day extended the theme of contradictory state practices in recovery with papers on the bedroom tax from Anat Greenstein, Afroditi Kalambouka, Kate Sapin and Erica Burman, Manchester and the veritable explosion of food banks by Mark Green, Public Health, Sheffield and Hannah Lambie-Mumford at Speri. The afternoon session saw Alex Nunn, Public Policy, Leeds Beckett and Mary Evans, Gender Institute, LSE discuss inequality in the UK economy. Referencing Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and Charles Moore’s biography of Thatcher, Evans pertinently pointed out that gender inequalities are constructed and sustained over time through the control of resources.
A round table of feminist political economists Adrienne Roberts, Politics, University of Manchester, Shirin Rai, Politics, University of Warwick, Ruth Pearson, University of Leeds, Women’s Budget Group and Genevieve LeBaron, Politics, University of Sheffield rounded up the two days of intense and stimulating exchange and debate.