Dr Rachel Rosen

ISRF Political Economy Fellow 2023-24

Dr Rachel Rosen

ISRF Political Economy Fellow 2023-24

Rachel Rosen is an Associate Professor at UCL’s Social Research Institute. Her scholarship is situated at the intersection of sociology of childhood and materialist feminism thought. Her research, teaching, and community engagement focuses on marginalised children and families, especially those with precarious immigration status. She is concerned with people’s everyday practices of sustenance and care in the context of neoliberal welfare and border regimes which shape their lives. Methodologically, her is interested in the ethics and politics of ethnography and participatory research with children and other marginalised social groups.

Rachel’s recent research projects include Children Caring on the Move, an investigation of unaccompanied migrant children’s experiences of care – both the that they receive and provide – in England (2019-2023, ESRC-funded, co-PI); Social reproduction in the shadows: Making lives with ‘no recourse to public funds’ which explores the life-making practices of destitute children, parents, and unaccompanied young people  with precarious immigration status (2019-2021, BA-funded pilot; 2023-2026, ESRC-funded, PI); and Solidarities: Negotiating migrant deservingness in welfare micropublics, examining how solidarities are imagined and practiced through multi-sited ethnography in Denmark, Sweden, and the UK (Nordforsk funded, Co-I).

Rachel is co-author of Negotiating Adult-Child Relationships in Early Childhood Research (2014, Routledge), and co-editor of Reimagining Childhood Studies (2019, Bloomsbury Academic), Feminism and the Politics of Childhood: Friends or Foes? (2018, UCL Press), the special issue Childhood, parenting culture, and adult-child relations in global perspectives (2020, Families, Relationships and Society), and Crisis for Whom? Critical global perspectives on childhood, care, and migration // ¿Crisis para quien? Perspectivas criticas internacionales sobre la infancia, el cuidado y la migración (2023, UCL Press).

Rachel is a member of the editorial board of the journal Childhood (SAGE) and The Sociological Review, and a co-convenor of the Reimagining Childhood Studies project. Rachel has worked with migrants’ rights organisations in Canada and the UK since the 1990s.

Welfare transformations and children’s reproductive labour: Advancing social reproduction theory through interdisciplinary dialogue

This project advances understandings of social reproduction by developing an innovative interdisciplinary framework for exploring and conceptualising children’s reproductive labour in the context of (post-)neoliberal welfare transformations.

In the UK, ‘(post-)neoliberalism’ references a cost-of-living crisis, hollowing out of public services, state-funded corporate bailouts, and increasingly targeted welfare provision shaped partially by resurgent nationalism (1). Together, these transformations mean previous modes of social reproduction, or the making and sustaining of lives, are no longer sufficient or available. Children occupy an ambivalent position in this context. Social reproduction theory emphasises that responsibility for childrearing has been transferred back to families, creating hardship and even destitution. Calls for welfare support are often articulated based on children’s perceived vulnerability, making them exceptionally deserving of assistance. Sociological scholarship on childhood, however, suggests that such exceptionalism reduces children to ‘emotionally priceless’ (2) burdens, obscuring children’s reproductive labour or rendering it problematic in classed, racialised, and gendered terms. Despite these complexities, there have been surprisingly limited attempts to explore children’s reproductive labour in (post-)neoliberal contexts and minimal efforts to elaborate theories of social reproduction that approach childhood holistically.

I address this lacuna by putting social reproduction theory, a core strand of feminist political economy, in dialogue with sociological approaches to childhood as a historical and situated institution and age-graded social position. Building on my expertise in participatory approaches, I develop a pioneering polyvocal methodology, using drama and visual arts to involve ten young people in reflecting on and analysing two contemporary data sets where other children give accounts of care, sustenance, and survival. This will provide insights into existing material about reproductive labour and generate new data as participants layer accounts with their own experiences and interpretative commentary. The approach promises novel ways to understand how children’s reproductive labour is practiced, understood, and valued in (post-)neoliberal societies.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at [email protected].