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Hopes multiplied amidst decline: Understanding gendered precarity in times of austerity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ruth Raynor



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Hope is not singular or fixed; instead hopes take multiple forms that constitute precarity. Drawing on interviews with white women ‘on benefits’ in the North East of England, in a period before Brexit, I explore different kinds of hope that surfaced in relation with neoliberal forces of, and beyond, austerity. (1) Multiplied hopes, hedging bets and holding several possibilities together; (2) Conflicted hopes, pulls towards paradoxical attachments; (3) Suspended hopes, framed by the limits of the now; (4) Negative hopes, invested in promises that despair could be pushed onto others; (5) Hopes for the absence of optimism, a mode of being present in the present, staying with mutual contingency and withdrawing from the cruelty of unknown futures, a strategy increasingly denied to women who were more than ‘left-behind’. By exploring the different forms that hopes take, we can better understand what hopes do. I argue that hopes in decline were not lost, nor orientated towards upward progress, but invested instead in maintaining a position. They were both sustaining and debilitating through situations of loss and uncertainty, and as such constituted a stretched-out present, tensed with decline.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Raynor RI

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Year: 2021

Volume: 39

Issue: 3

Pages: 553-570

Print publication date: 01/06/2021

Online publication date: 20/02/2021

Acceptance date: 02/04/2016

Date deposited: 05/03/2021

ISSN (print): 0263-7758

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3433

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0263775821993826


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