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Accepted Paper:

A welfare state “within reach”: mothers’ intermediation at the urban margins  
Alice Daquin (Graduate Institute of Geneva)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper draws on an ethnography in a banlieue of Marseille to shed light on the role of mothers, a key but understudied set of gendered intermediaries, who negotiate and implement social assistance and hence, contribute to transforming the imaginary of the French state at its urban margins.

Paper Abstract:

This paper engages with a sub-set of actors – mothers - who participate in negotiating and redefining the limits of the welfare state in French urban peripheries. I draw on an ethnographic study conducted in 2021/2022 in a marginalized neighborhood of Marseille (France), among women of post-colonial immigrant background. In contrast with common studies focusing on the role of male public actors, my ethnography bridges political anthropology and gender studies to study the contemporary transformations of the French welfare state by taking everyday encounters with the state seriously. In this neighborhood, inhabitants are dependent on welfare assistance, yet suspicious about an opaque state which imposes an ever-increasing administrative burden on them. Social rights are no longer a given but are up for negotiation with an assemblage of state and non-state actors (de Koning et al. 2023).

I conducted my ethnography among local mothers who integrate this assemblage as key intermediaries at the margins of the state (Das et Poole 2004). I illustrate how their everyday acts such as administrative arrangements, political bypasses, and food parcel distributions, rely on their ability to produce intimacy with the municipality, social landlords and charities. Mothers integrate these actors into the neighborhood’s relationships of reciprocity, thus bringing back the state within reach. Their everyday practices are thus transforming the imagined topography of the state, which is no longer seen as a distant and overhanging entity, as Fergusson and Gupta (2002) have described it, but as a relational fabric in which some residents regain a grip.

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