2: Low-income fatherhoods in historical and political context

Author:

The extent to which men’s relationships and lived experiences in low-income families and contexts have been addressed in academic debates and discussion is examined in this chapter. Superficial readings of interdisciplinary literatures that engage with questions of men, poverty and family and community life show that they make strong assertions that men’s experiences are a key area of empirical neglect. Yet, these observations only serve to re-enforce, rather than address, their invisibility.

Drawing on an interdisciplinary scholarship from social history, sociology, social policy and social geography, the questions of how and why the social and relational dynamics and lived experiences of men in low-income families and contexts are often rendered invisible are interrogated. In-depth engagement with the literature explains the dominant and historically rooted policy preoccupation with fathers living in low-income families, which locates them within ‘problem’ and ‘underclass’ families, considers them absent, and relegates them to the margins of social and familial lives in the low-income localities and communities of urban Britain. This history has predominantly steered and underscored contemporary academic interest in the cultural politics of representational contexts and the sustained focus on crisis and father absence. While it is not possible to provide an exhaustive account of the histories and evolving policy contexts that have rendered empirical accounts of low-income fathers invisible in this chapter, tracing their development and intersections is vital to a more comprehensive understanding of men’s family participation in low-income families over time.

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