The shame of welfare? Lived experiences of welfare and culturally inflected experiences of shame

Emma Mitchell, Eve Vincent*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article concerns the relationship between shame and lived experiences of welfare in Australia, a multicultural settler colony. References to shame abound in the literature dealing with lived experiences of welfare in the Global North. Scholars point to the corrosive effects of shame on the lives of welfare recipients, and the ways they resist shame. This article interrogates the relationship between shame and lived experiences of welfare anew, foregrounding the cultural specificity of welfare shame. Through two case studies—one of which deals with the receipt of social security in hyper-diverse urban Sydney and one of which deals with a punitive welfare reform experiment targeting Aboriginal Australia— we show that shame is a multi-faceted phenomenon implicated in the production of boundaries and self. We argue that the shame or, in some cases, the striking absence of shame associated with welfare is best understood by appreciating that shame is a culturally inflected and historically conditioned phenomenon. Through close description of lived experiences of welfare, we show how a psychosocial and situated conception of shame offers a complex perspective on the making of social bonds and culturally specific, spatially inflected and historically contingent conceptions of self-worth and meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100847
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalEmotion, Space and Society
Volume41
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • shame
  • Australian welfare state
  • lived experience
  • social security
  • Centrelink
  • Cashless Debit Card
  • Shame
  • Lived experience
  • Social security

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