Resilience, Community Building and Spaces of Mutual Care within the UK Disability Activist Community

Authors: Angharad Butler-Rees*, University of Southampton
Topics: Disabilities, Political Geography, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Austerity, Biographical Methods, Care, Community, Disability Activism, Resilience
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Maryland A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The concept of ‘resilience’ has become engrained within state policy, we are continually told as individuals, households and communities that we will ‘cope’ due to our presumed resilience. Resilience has consequently been used as a policy justification for the financial abandonment of communities, with the assumption that households and localities will automatically bounce back and fill the gaps left by the state. With the onset of austerity, disabled people in the UK have faced an onslaught of financial cuts, including cuts to both personal income and social care. Running alongside this, we have also witnessed the closure of numerous disabled people’s organizations as well as specialist and community support groups. Disabled people have therefore had to fill this void through their own informal structures of care and support. Drawing upon 29 biographical interviews, this paper will give voice to the various experiences of disability activists and highlight the ways in which the disability activist community is contributing to a shifting ‘landscapes of care’ in austerity Britain (Milligan & Wiles, 2010). Participants’ accounts highlight a variety of spaces (i.e. online support groups, arts organizations and protest groups), in which care is reciprocally produced. The paper will outline some of the ways in which these networks of support function: from individuals turning to one another for informal advice, emotional support, resources and advocacy. Activist networks can provide a vital sense of connection and support in times of state abandonment, serving to bolster resilience and underpin resistance.

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