A mother's hope in the midst of existential immobility from state and stigma

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Harpurhey, in North Manchester, England, has been struggling with the systematic withdrawal of public services and funding for well over a decade. It is hardly surprising that a collective inability to imagine a future beyond continued, entrenched dependence on state welfare to make ends meet appears to be the very mark of crisis. This paper begins by exploring the limitations that dependence on state welfare and its reforms impose on one’s ability to imagine, anticipate and prepare for the future. It then introduces the affective dynamics of parenting and motherhood to an understanding of imaginations of the future with a backdrop of government disinvestment. The paper is situated ethnographically in households on the main social housing estate in Harpurhey, and it follows the experiences of a mother and her son as they deal with moments of uncertainty, and attempt to imagine and prepare for his future free from dependence on state welfare. It opens up the narrations (or lack thereof) of his future as a dense transfer points for understandings of personal worth, familial obligations and a fragmented societal hope. Considering that parenting marks time in the most intimate of ways, and it confronts parents with the passing of time in terms of biological “growth” that sequences time for us, this paper addresses how and at what points dependence on the state, over time, reconfigures the affective dynamics of motherhood and imaginations of familial dependencies into the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)36-46
Number of pages10
JournalFocaal, Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology
Issue number90
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


  • Dependence, kinship, motherhood, temporalities, parenting, welfare, poverty, social mobility


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