Austerity and Emergency/Crisis

30th June 2014, University of Durham

Organised by Dr Ben Anderson
The fifth seminar will hone in on the relation between austerity and crisis and emergency – where crisis and emergency are understood as both material and affective conditions lived unevenly and as specific ways of rendering events and situations governable. A range of recent work has mapped how austerity emerged, or was returned to and reconfigured, in the midst of a translation of a fiscal crisis into a state crisis and crisis of the state. After this translation, and as diverse austerity futures are made present, the seminar explores how austerity depends on claims about crisis or emergency and generates a sense of everyday crisis or emergency – that is particular ways of imagining and materialising the future that are part of austerity as discourse, structure of feeling or atmosphere, elite project of state restructuring and lived condition.

Specific questions will include: 

  • How have versions of crisis and emergency been used to justify and legitimise the resource and expectation shrinkage that is austerity?
  • Given the state restructuring associated with austerity, how are emergency and crisis connected to new ways of governing life? For example, has welfare provision become a matter of temporary emergency relief or has city governance become a matter of emergency management?
  • In what ways are the lines between crisis/emergency and the everyday erased, reproduced, fractured or non-existent as austerity measures and austerity as atmosphere becomes part of everyday lives?
  • What purchase do concepts that reconfigure the temporality of crisis and emergency have to understand the lived experience of austere futures?
  • How does the sense of urgency that can infuse crisis or emergency relate to the sacrificial logic of austerity as a discourse and affective fact?
  • What political moods or atmospheres – such as the predictable-unpredictability that some associate with precarity – are shared between austerity and at least some versions of crisis and emergency?
  • How have crisis and emergency been used by states to govern protests and other forms of anti-austerity dissent, as well as anticipate and pre-empt post-austerity alternatives?
  • Finally, how do counter movements to austerity draw on and reproduce ideas of crisis and emergency? And what is at stake in using and reproducing the vocabulary of crisis and emergency when critiquing austerity?


Austere States

Ben Anderson (Geography, Durham): Austerity and Crisis/Emergency

Rebecca Bramall (Media and Cultural Studies, Brighton): Bake Cakes and Save Lives: Normalising the ‘Crisis’ of the State

Paul Langley (Geography, Durham): The Apparatus of Austerity

Living with Austerity

Sarah Hall (Geography, Durham): Intimacy, Crises and Austerity: Affective and Relational Geographies of Family Life

Alison Stenning (Geography, Newcastle): Squeezing the Middle: Austerity, Everyday Crises and Relationships in North Tyneside

Esther Hitchen (Geography, Durham): The ‘Austerian Subject’ and the Multiple Performances of Austerity

Austerity Otherwise

Paul Rodgers & Andy Tennant (Design, Northumbria): Austerity, Crises and the Disruptive Design Turn

Yasmina Reggad (Independent Curator): Arts of Austerity

Rebecca Coleman (Sociology, Goldsmiths): Reflections: Austerity Futures