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

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.

more articles from

Volume 39 Issue 3

Explore our Topics

Though not an exhaustive list, these are many of the main areas we cover.