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Accepted Paper:

The unruliness of “meantime welfare”: Council-funded food aid in a London borough  
Tessa Bonduelle (University of Amsterdam)

Paper Short Abstract:

As the UK’s social security system fails to ensure food, fuel, and housing security, local councils provide what I call “meantime welfare” – projects presented as temporary forms of aid. I argue that such meantime welfare produces unruly communities amidst a palpable absence of the welfare state.

Paper Abstract:

In the UK, the ongoing cost-of-living crisis has seen food and fuel insecurity deepen and spread into previously secure middle classes. An increasing number of people are now facing basic needs crises that don’t seem to be going away. As key actors of welfare provisioning in the UK, local councils are attempting to address residents’ unmet needs. In the context of a national social security system that is consistently failing to ensure food, fuel, and housing security, local councils provide what I call “meantime welfare.” Limited in their ability to ensure that residents have sufficient resources to provide for themselves, local councils fund projects presented as temporary forms of aid. What sociopolitical relations does such meantime welfare produce?

Focusing on a council-funded Food Hub in a London borough, I track the unruliness of meantime welfare, exploring how the Food Hub transformed relations in a diverse working class neighbourhood through the creation of an unprogrammed “community” that spans generations, abilities, classes, ethnic and racial difference. Many have written about the ways in which welfare governs through communities (Rose 1996). Yet the unruly ways by which “community” emerges and generates “the welfare state” remains underexplored. I show how this Food Hub evolved from a food aid distribution node to a volunteer-focused community. Rather than bringing the welfare state to the neighbourhood, I argue that this Food Hub – and the logics of meantime welfare that shape it – instead brought about a collective arrangement from which the welfare state was palpably absent.

Panel P154
Reimagining welfare futures as things fall apart [Anthropologies of the State (AnthroState)]
  Session 1 Friday 26 July, 2024, -