6: Life Chances: thinking with art to generate new understandings of low-income situations

This chapter explores how contemporary social practice art materialises interactions between regulatory regimes and low-income families with children and enables disruptions of regulatory regimes in ways not possible using traditional social science approaches. It focuses on a research team that included artists Close and Remote. Here, the chapter explains how the team co-produced, with community members and academics, a socially engaged artwork — Life Chances — that aimed to generate new knowledges about the regulatory regimes that low-income families with children experience. Aiming towards a form of improvisational empathy, Life Chances worked with Thomas More’s (1516) Utopia and Ruth Levitas’s (2013) Utopia as Method as ‘a form of speculative sociology of the future’. By staging and troubling contradictory notions of ‘life chances’ through art, the chapter specifically asks how the regulatory services that families encounter in two urban settings — the Easton area of Bristol and Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown in Cardiff — shape, constrain, and enable the life chances of individual families and communities.

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