Conceptualising Shadow care infrastructures: surviving, thriving and flourishing in post-welfare cities

Authors: Kathy Mee*, University of Newcastle, Emma Ruth Power, Western Sydney University, Ilan Wiesel, University of Melbourne
Topics: Social Geography, Australia and New Zealand, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: care, infrastructure, post-welfare cities
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Economic restructuring and welfare reform in many cities of the global north, have forced marginalised people and those who care for them to invent new care infrastructures. In this emerging, yet incomplete, post-welfare urban landscape, marginalised people increasingly rely on informal care by friends, family, strangers and organisations to supplement inadequate state provision. Yet, as Minigione (1993) argues, the marginalisation of the urban poor is also “amplified by extensive deficiencies in social support institutions”, and by the tendency in urban societies towards individualism, estrangement, mobility and instability, as well as racial- and class-based hostilities which may hinder access to informal care. However, rather than the annihilation of care in the post-welfare city, in this paper we propose that care networks, resources, practices and ethics are reassembling in new hybrid forms which we term ‘shadow care infrastructures’. In the paper we consider whether and how ‘shadow care infrastructures’ - a wide range of formal and informal provisions of material and social supports - are emerging to fill the gaps, to enable survival, thriving and flourishing. Shadow care infrastructures are assembled to support life on the margins, yet increased reliance on these infrastructures raises significant concerns about their adequacy, appropriateness and sustainability. We illustrate our discussion with reflections on how responses to COVID19 reveal the importance of shadow care infrastructures to daily life in the post-welfare city.

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