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Durham e-Theses
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Pessimism, Paranoia, Melancholia: The affective life of austerity

HITCHEN, ESTHER,JULIA,ULRIKE (2019) Pessimism, Paranoia, Melancholia: The affective life of austerity. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis examines the affective life of austerity with a particular focus on UK public libraries. It moves understandings of austerity beyond simply a fiscal policy towards conceptualising austerity as lived and felt in everyday life. This understands austerity as simultaneously an economic, social and cultural phenomenon. This does not jettison austerity as a fiscal policy, but rather emphasises that austerity is also a phenomenon that is rooted in lived experience. This research is based upon eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in a borough-wide library service, North-East England. This thesis examines a particular form in which austerity is lived and felt – namely its affective presence. It not only explores how austerity becomes individually felt, but also collectively felt and participated in. It conceptualises austerity as an affective atmosphere that envelops multiple space-times of the everyday. The thesis examines how austerity becomes the ‘background noise’ of everyday life that ebbs and flows in its intensity, how it shapes capacities to feel and act, how austerity is in some way always there, ready to make itself present. Three collectively felt affects are explored in great detail: paranoia, melancholia and pessimism. Importantly, this thesis pushes forward debates on the temporality of affect and, in particular, the temporality of affective atmospheres, through examining the ways in which atmospheres re-emerge throughout everyday life. As part of this it turns to psychoanalytic concepts to explore how they can be collectively felt. The thesis examines how psychoanalytic concepts have application beyond the ontological stance of the unconscious towards thinking about collective life. Finally, this thesis develops the concept and practice of lingering within research. The thesis examines how lingering can be become a methodological tool within affective research and ethnographic research more broadly.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Austerity; affect; everyday life; collective feeling; affective atmospheres; lived austerity; public libraries
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Jun 2019 12:26

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