ISRF Political Economy Fellow 2019-20
ISRF Political Economy Fellow 2019-20
Sarah Marie Hall is Reader in Human Geography at the University of Manchester, UK. Her research sits in the broad field of geographical feminist political economy: understanding how socio-economic processes are shaped by gender relations, lived experience and social difference. From 2012-2015 Sarah held a Hallsworth Research Fellowship in Political Economy (2012-2015) during which time she carried out the Everyday Austerity project, and is currently working on a manuscript on this research. Sarah is also a member of the Management Committee of the Women’s Budget Group, an international network of feminist researchers, policy experts and activists working to address the gendered nature of socio-economic policymaking.
For her ISRF Political Economy fellowship she will be exploring lived experiences of childbearing in austere times. Integrating feminist, political economy and geographical approaches, particularly drawing upon theories of reproductive justice and intersectionality, Sarah will explore the everyday realities of people for whom austerity has had a significantly impact on their family lives. The project utilises oral history interviews to engage with real-life experiences of socio-economic barriers, the findings of which are anticipated to provide fresh insights about the relationship between childbearing and contemporary austerity.
Childbearing in austerity represents a considerable concern in contemporary Europe. The demographic and generational composition of society has huge implications for economic productivity, human rights, wellbeing, migration and social infrastructure. Recent reports from Eurostat (2013), European Commission (2013) and Eurofound (2014) identify an accelerated drop in birth rates across Europe following the Global Financial Crisis (2008-2010), especially in countries where austerity policies have been vigorously imposed, such as the UK. Despite these significant changes to contemporary family life, there remains a dearth of in-depth empirical research that investigates lived experiences of childbearing in presently austere times.
This innovative, interdisciplinary scoping study aims to address this very issue, by applying feminist concepts of intersectionality – currently underdeveloped within geography and political economy (Hopkins 2017, Valentine 2007) – to account for the complexity of social and economic factors in decision-making processes around reproduction (Colen 1995). The project also presents methodological innovation, by experimenting with oral history methods and asking participants to reflect not only on their lives to date but also into the future, to unpack lived realities of contemporary austerity.
I will undertake thirty ‘oral history and future’ interviews with individuals aged 20-45 living in North-East England; an area significantly impacted by austerity policies (Hastings et al. 2015) and with the UK’s lowest birth rates (ONS 2017). By actively engaging in real-life experiences of socio-economic barriers, findings are anticipated to provide fresh insights about the relationship between childbearing and austerity. Bringing together feminist intersectional theory and geographical political economy, and experimenting with oral history methods, the project has transformative potential for interdisciplinary understandings and real-world applications concerning socio-spatial economic inequalities. As such, the project realises many aims of the ISRF, by creating new conversations between theoretical and methodological approaches and disciplines, to address an important and complex contemporary issue.
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