Survival After the Crisis. The Slow Violence of Austerity in Contemporary Spain
Janina Kehr (University of Bern)
Paper short abstract:
Based on ethnographic fieldwork among a medical outreach team who cares for poor patients with multiple chronic diseases, I explore the slow violence of austerity in Spain as it plays out and is experienced by patients, and the way it is addressed by health professionals and social workers.
Paper long abstract:
Post-crisis austerity is weighing on the lives and health of people in Southern Europe. In Spain, unemployment and ever more precarious labour conditions, combined with reduced welfare services, a lack of affordable housing, and rising co-payments in healthcare bear on peoples' mental and physical health. Survival rather than a good life has become a daily fact for the poor and chronically ill, some of whom qualify their existences as a "life which is no life". Based on ethnographic fieldwork among a medical outreach team who cares for poor patients with multiple chronic diseases, I explore the slow violence of austerity as it plays out and is experienced by the team's patients, and the way it is addressed by health professionals and social workers. I argue that doctors, social workers and nurses sustain survival within ever more uncertain regimes of aid, opaque bureaucratic requirements and medical and social institutions fashioned by demands for saving. I thereby intend to show that austerity policies, in the domain of health and social care, not only kill, as epidemiological studies have demonstrated, but also enclose the poor and chronically ill in a life which is no life for an undetermined time. Chronically ill patients and their families struggle to survive, while longing for and demanding a more decent life, and sometimes even death.
Environments and infrastructures of slow violence