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  • Author or Editor: Sarah Marie Hall x
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Assumptions made about social class, accent and identity, and the links between them, have long been understood as a form of geographical referencing, a way of placing ourselves and of being placed by others, both socially and spatially (Donnelly et al, 2019; Savage, 2015; Skeggs, 2004). In this chapter I reflect on this form of identity making and social positioning in the context of research engagement with families, academic communities and policy makers alike, in an attempt to speak back to these various stakeholders. As I discuss, by locating people socially and spatially according to accent and dialect, leaps in understanding can be made about whether and how as a researcher your lived experiences are similar to those whom you research, and the extent to which you may be able to speak for others – if this is ever even preferable (also see Chapter Four in this volume). To do this I draw upon relevant literatures alongside insights from two ethnographic research projects in the north-west of England. Both studies explored everyday family relationships and practices (the first in 2007–9, the second in 2013–15), involving families and communities from varied socio-economic backgrounds. They also applied similar research designs, built predominantly on participant observation and supported by taped discussions, participatory tasks and photographs (for further details on methodology, see Hall, 2017). And, significantly, both projects were led by and carried out, with findings disseminated by the author, Sarah: a young(ish) white woman from a working-class family, born and raised in Barnsley, a small Yorkshire town in the north of England.

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Drawing on thinking across human geography and sociology, and engaging with key concepts of caringscapes, personal lives and the lifecourse, this chapter argues for greater consideration of the impact that austerity can have on both personal and relational biographies. Findings in the form of ethnographic accounts and vignettes from recent research with families and communities in Greater Manchester, UK, regarding everyday life in austerity, and particularly using findings from a biographical mapping tool developed by the author, are reported. Using these data, the chapter makes the case for developing both concepts and methods for understanding social and personal lives in times of austerity and crisis.

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International Perspectives on Childhood and Youth in Hard Times

Bringing together new, multidisciplinary research, this book explores how children and young people across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas experience and cope with situations of poverty and precarity.

It looks at the impact of neoliberalism, austerity and global economic crisis, evidencing the multiple harms and inequalities caused. It also examines the different ways that children, young people and families ‘get by’ under these challenging circumstances, showing how they care for one another and envisage more hopeful socio-political futures.

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Housing, gender and care in times of crisis

Home and care are central aspects of everyday, personal lives, yet they are also shaped by political and economic change. Within a context of austerity, economic restructuring, worsening inequality and resource rationing, the policies and experiences around these key areas are shifting. Taking an interdisciplinary and feminist perspective, this book illustrates how economic and political changes affect everyday lives for many families and households in the UK. Setting out both new empirical material and new conceptual terrain, the authors draw on approaches from human geography, social policy, and feminist and political theory to explore issues of home and care in times of crisis.

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This book develops critical and original perspectives on research engagement and impact. It uses first-hand accounts from social scientists to unpack and highlight the intersectionality of their work and experiences in engaging with policy, industry, civil society and other academics. With a personal and reflexive take on experience and the politics of research engagement, including notions of social difference, power and inequality, we respond to the growing agenda and the desire of academic research for real-world influence. Our aims for this collection are, then, to provide critical reflexivity to understandings and applications of research engagement and impact strategies, within academia and with other stakeholders, namely policy makers, industry and civil society. In this introductory chapter we outline the contemporary landscapes of impact and engagement; identify important spaces of research engagement and encounter; outline key ideas about intersectionality, identity and positionality; and provide a taster of the themed sections and chapters that follow. Academic engagement with non-academic groups and actors – such as policy makers, industry, charities and activist groups, communities and the public – is arguably more important now than ever before. From public engagement activities such as talks, exhibitions and festivals, to the co-production of knowledge for and with interest groups, the imperative for real-world influence has moved from being an ideal in academic research to something of a normative expectation (also see Banks et al, 2019; Hardill and Mills, 2013). Indeed, such engagement, or rather ‘impact’ on industry, policy making and public opinion, is increasingly being formalised, as another marker of esteem and credibility upon which academic institutions, their staff and increasingly students are promoted, measured and ranked.

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Through personal anecdotes, this collection has zoomed in on certain aspects of how research is conducted and perceived, many of which often remain hidden in academia and beyond. The main message of the book is that these encounters and engagements matter, not only to researchers but also to the way the research is perceived in and percolates through into the ‘real world’. Rich in illustration of cases across different countries and contexts, the chapters in this volume offer a persuasive account of why it pays those involved in research or users of research to develop a more critical eye towards the research process and its impact. The aim of the book has been to expose the plethora of social interactions and characteristics that are manifested in encounters and the role of researchers, policy makers, industry representatives and civil society in negotiating difference in engagement and impact. A key message of the book is that difference is encountered in many ways, some less subtle than others, during every aspect of research and engagement. However, institutions are ill equipped to recognise and offer support and training in critically engaging with intersectionality and its implications in encounters and encounter spaces. This needs to change. This book serves as a testimony that the things that can shape research are often unexpected to the researchers themselves and that, while they may be invisible to others, they can be unsurmountable to some, shaping and moulding future research and reaching out beyond neatly labelled parts of research work, such as fieldwork and engagement.

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The move towards creative research outputs within academia has seen a recent and rapid uptake of mediums such as comics, zines, film, podcasts, and theatre to translate and engage the wider public in academia (Arevalo et al, 2020). These mediums can both be powerful and enlightening ways to communicate research findings, though they also come with distinct challenges (Hall et al, 2021). In this chapter we discuss the process and potential of communicating crisis research in creative forms, using the example of comics. More specifically, we draw upon our own experiences of developing creative research outputs and explore this process by looking at the comic, After Maria: Everyday Recovery from Disaster. This comic translates Gemma Sou’s ethnographic research on how low-income Puerto Rican families recovered from the impacts of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the Caribbean island in September 2017. Our aim is to use the After Maria example as a means of developing critical discussions about the representational politics, pedagogy, and process of translating crisis research into comic form.

We argue that communicating crisis research via comics is a highly democratic process because it ensures your research is accessible to your participants as well as the wider public. Relatedly, the production of comics also enables a more participatory research process whereby participants can shape how their story is told. Comics are also uniquely positioned to produce a politics of representation that challenges reductive, dehumanising, and apolitical narratives about crisis-affected people that often circulate in mainstream media (Scott, 2014), and in academic research (Tuck, 2009). Furthermore, comics offer powerful rhetorical power as they are uniquely able to distil complex ideas into engaging and highly learnable forms (Chute, 2016).

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In 2012, David Morgan gave a talk titled ‘Neighbours, neighbouring and acquaintanceship: some further thoughts’ at the University of Turku, Finland. In this article we engage in dialogue with Morgan’s talk, as well as his 2009 book Acquaintances, in particular the observations he made about the simultaneous closeness and distance that characterises neighbouring relationships. We suggest that using the metaphors of elasticity and stickiness instead allows us to explore neighbouring relationships as more than inhabiting a space between intimates and strangers (), but as textured and messy everyday relationalities. We consider also how the ‘stickiness’ of this relationship as well as the significance of its ‘elasticity’ are likely to have been heightened during COVID-19 lockdowns, which have altered the usual configurations of intimate and stranger relationships. In doing so, our aim is to contribute further to Morgan’s theorising of the nature of neighbouring as a specific form of acquaintanceship.

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This collection gives voice to children, young people and families at the sharp end of contemporary processes of neoliberalisations, austerities and economic crises in diverse global contexts. We wish this book was not necessary or timely. However, as three geographers who have worked with many children, young people and families in different settings over the last 15 years, we are writing from a deep sense of sadness and urgency. This book has developed out of our anger and concern that the lives and prospects of so many of our research participants have demonstrably been adversely affected by manifestations of neoliberalisations, austerities and economic crises. The book is also written from heartbreak that our own communities, families and lifecourses have been profoundly affected by the same horrible processes. So as a point of departure, the following three vignettes from our research introduce some key terms, processes and deeply affecting encounters which echo throughout the following chapters.

During the global financial crisis of 2007–08, John was in the middle of several research projects based in spaces of play, youthwork and social care in the English Midlands. These spaces and communities were radically transformed by subsequent public sector funding cuts. Literally all of the youth organisations John worked with back then have now closed; literally all of the youthworkers and practitioners he worked with were made redundant. Within a few years entire, taken-for-granted categories of work/space (‘the public library’, ‘the statutory youth service’) were downsized, decommissioned and – apparently permanently – deemed unviable.

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This book set out to illuminate the personal, everyday effects of hard times for children, young people and families in diverse global contexts. In this concluding chapter, we begin by outlining the contribution of the three Parts of the book and their constituent chapters to our understanding of the hard times which interlace with the lives of children, youth and families. Our focus on ‘hard times’ aims to shed light on all manner of structural inequalities, longstanding exclusions and power imbalances which are being constituted or intensified by neoliberalisations, austerities and economic crises. Elucidating the implications of these complexly relational, hurtful and deeply affecting moments leads us to reflect on the opportunities and prospects for socially-differentiated children and young people getting by and growing up in hard times. In bringing together neoliberalisations, austerities and economic crises, we recognise how these processes are lumped together, materially and spatially (Katz, 2004; 2018) and in people’s everyday experiences. Drawing the collection to a close, we consider further directions for research which is sensitive to the interrelations between broadscale political-economic shifts and locally-scaled, personally inflected inequalities.

Divided into three key Parts, the collection began with an exploration of the transformative impacts of hard times for children, youth and families at the sharp end of neoliberalisms, austerities and economic crises. Drawing on work from diverse international contexts, Part 1 explored the transformations which play out unevenly at personal, familial and local scales as a result of political-economic processes.

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