How is life in social isolation seen from the viewpoint of people who experience persistent poverty? Given the systemic denial of self-representational agency from those living in poverty and the neoliberalisation of the welfare state, this article turns to those who remained invisible to either the media or the state during the pandemic. In line with current tendencies to prioritise the voice and lived knowledge of people in poverty, we provided our interlocutors with a specifically designed diary tool to allow them to share their mundane experiences and thoughts at their own discretion. Using these diaries of women and men in poverty, and complementary interviews, this article unpacks the ways our participants deal with and understand their everyday relationships with the absent state, mostly welfare and education. Based on the themes that emerged from our interlocutors’ journals, our findings reveal the Janus-faced abandoning/monitoring state that they routinely confront. We then demonstrate how they are constantly chasing the state, struggling to receive the support they lawfully deserve. At the same time, being subjected to practices of state monitoring and surveillance often results not only in mistrust but also in withdrawing almost altogether from the welfare services and social workers, and turning to alternative support networks. We conclude by offering two insights that accentuate, on the one hand, what we and our diarists already know, namely that they count for nothing. Still, on the other hand, the act of self-documentation itself reveals the representational agency of those brave diarists who refuse to forsake their worthiness as citizens.
What does ‘doing family while poor’ teach us about agency, resilience and care under COVID-19? Set against a dual backdrop of increasing economic hardships and expanding inequalities, and in light of a shifting perspective in poverty and family studies, we employ David Morgan’s family practices approach to study the lived realities of family life through the perspective of everyday relationships. Our research, led by a team comprised of academics and activists who themselves endure poverty, is set to allow people experiencing poverty to document their everyday lives. In their journals we identify a form of social awareness to the politics of poverty, which consist of negative emotions emanating from one’s daily struggles against the harsh reality of inequality, yet do not lead to paralysis and inaction. We dub this state agentic hopelessness.