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Household returns: rethinking the household through new biomedical models and welfare practices 
Anna Wood (University of Cambridge)
Branwyn Poleykett (University of Exeter)
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Health, Disease and Wellbeing
Tuesday 30 March, 11:15-12:45 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

This panel identifies the return of the household as an analytical and operational category in new forms of welfare, development and global health.

Long Abstract

New biomedical models and welfare practices reintroduce the household into analytical focus in global health and development. The household, a ‘universal enough kind of unit to be worth making a model of’ (Guyer 1981), functions as a site where certain key transitions – epidemiological, nutritional, metabolic, economic - can be documented. Studies of malnutrition and the “double burden” of stunting, wasting, malnourishment and diet related NCDs imagine the household as a space of maldistributed resources, violent relations and bad care. Meanwhile, if a ‘break with welfare familism’ is sometimes identified, most radically in notions of basic income (Ferguson 2015), in reality most welfare and social protection policies remain linked to conventional ideas of the household with its breadwinner and dependents. Moreover, the impact of policies like cash transfers and Universal Health Coverage is often measured by looking at how they protect household economic wellbeing, or how well they “channel” the household’s common resources toward protective spending. The bounded, ideal category of a natural household unit - as a domestic domain, concerned with biological reproduction, and categorised by commonality of interest - was critiqued as problematic or redundant in earlier development work and feminist anthropology. This panel asks how this critique might serve us as the household is reimagined, drawn into new relations, under new regimes of welfare, including those that seek to bypass or diminish its salience and influence. We are particularly interested in papers which pay ethnographic attention to changing patterns of provision, inequality, reciprocity as well as visions of solidarity and responsibility.

Accepted papers: