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The ‘Austerian Subject’ and the Multiple Performances of Austerity

HITCHEN, ESTHER,JULIA,ULRIKE (2014) The ‘Austerian Subject’ and the Multiple Performances of Austerity. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores the current state of austerity in the UK, understanding it as multiple phenomena – as both discursive and as lived. Drawing upon UK political and policy statements, austerity is explored as a set of discursive formations. Governmental discourses generate the conditions of possibility for austerity to occur, through invoking a threatening future if the public deficit is not reduced. Yet, whilst discourses after the 2010 general election generated the notion of ‘we are all in this together’ in the face of adversity, this was quickly replaced by a binary between the ‘striver’ and the ‘shirker’. This constructs the idea that certain individuals are undeserving of governmental support, legitimating the uneven distribution of spending cuts across homes and bodies. This thesis also explores the idea of the Austerian subject – an ‘ideal’, as well as an ‘actually existing’ subject summoned in the governing through austerity. Yet, this is a blurred subjectivity, expressing elements of a disciplined, entrepreneurial, resilient and neurotic subject. The Austerian subject, therefore, has a paradoxical relationship with austerity. The thesis then explores how austerity is lived and felt in everyday life. This pays attention to the affective experiences of austerity and austerity as an affective atmosphere – how austerity generates collective affects and feelings that are transferred into different bodily experiences. This has been achieved through carrying out in-depth interviews with families affected by disability, as they have been disproportionately impacted by governmental spending cuts. These interviews highlight the multiple affective relations that ‘actually existing’ Austerian subjects have towards austerity – they struggle, adapt, contest and ‘get on with life’ – further showing how their relationship with austerity is paradoxical. Consequently, the thesis understands austerity as discursive and as lived in order to explore how, and with what consequences, austerity has become part of life today.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:"Austerity," "Discourse," "Performativity," "Biopower," "Affect," "Atmosphere"
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 May 2014 12:21

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