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Accepted Paper:

Precariousness beyond Austerity: Caring, Abandonment and Familialism in Brazil  


Erik Bähre (Universiteit Leiden)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how rapid changes in the political-economy (austerity) ánd long-term realignments of social hierarchies (individualization) change caring, increase fears of abandonment, and bolster familialism.

Paper long abstract:

The Brazilian constitution of 1988 states that health is a right of every individual but the constitutional right to health contrasts sharply with everyday reality. Biehl (2013) argued that abandonment and dehumanization are central mechanisms through which the neoliberal Brazilian government fails to care. When analyzing Global Care Chains, Nguyen, Zavoretti and Tronto (2017) found that neoliberalism increased precarity ánd gave rise to familialism; a highly gendered ethics that holds the family responsible for caring. This paper builds on these notions of abandonment and familialism to analyse the everyday struggles over healthcare in Brasília. Neoliberalism, the economic crisis and austerity measures strengthened fears of abandonment that seem to underlie a political discourse that calls for the restoration of the caring and 'traditional' family. But fears about being abandoned and the ideology of familialism might also have other causes such as realigning social relationships and hierarchies. During the past decades, individualization, urbanization, and emancipation put, often highly unequal, care arrangements into the balance. During that same period, life expectancy increased rapidly and put a strain on precarious care arrangements. How can one best examine the consequence of these changes for precariousness and caring? The underlying theoretical challenge is to examine fears of abandonment and the ideology of familialism in light of both rapid and strongly felt political-economic changes (crisis, austerity), as well as longer term, and therefore less manifest, realignments of social relations and hierarchies (individualization, emancipation)?

Panel P130a
Contexts and experiences of precariousness: discourses, practices and emotions