Migrant women and social reproduction under austerity

Lonergan, Gwyneth (2015) Migrant women and social reproduction under austerity. Feminist Review, 109 (1). pp. 124-145. ISSN 0141-7789

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Abstract

Since coming to power in 2010, the UK Coalition government has enacted a series of cuts to public spending, under the auspices of austerity. Underpinning these cuts is a neo-liberal model of citizenship, in which citizens are expected to be autonomous, independent and economically productive, and in which the responsibilities of citizenship outweigh the rights. This model of citizenship is characterised by a paradoxical approach to social reproduction. The Coalition government has taken a significant interest in social reproduction as a means of creating the next generation of ‘good’ neo-liberal citizens; yet, the current austerity measures involve the withdrawal of state support for social reproduction activities. Drawing on participant observation carried out with migrant women’s groups in Sheffield and Manchester, as well as interviews with group members, this article demonstrates how the government’s paradoxical approach to social reproduction, combined with gendered and racialised discourses of citizenship and ‘Britishness’, have led to policies that place ethnic minority migrant women in an untenable situation. The social reproduction activities of ethnic minority migrant women are the subject of intense government interest, because of the concern that they will be unable to produce ‘good’ neo-liberal citizens. In some cases, this has led to government policies clearly intended to dissuade ‘undesirable’ migrants from having children. In other cases, migrant women are expected to show their commitment to integration, both for themselves and their children, specifically by learning English, even as the government has drastically cut funding for English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) classes. While seemingly paradoxical, this is in keeping with a racialised neo-liberal model of citizenship under which the ‘responsible’ migrant mother should be able to parent and learn English without government assistance. Nonetheless, these policies are actually self-defeating, as they prevent migrant women from exhibiting the very characteristics of neo-liberal citizenship that they are ostensibly trying to encourage.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Feminist Review
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/3300/3318
Subjects:
ID Code:
135497
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
22 Jul 2019 11:35
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
19 Aug 2020 05:35