On 7 June 2016, the UPD seminar included four presentations by current research students as part of their annual review or upgrading. The presentations introduced the scope of their doctoral research projects whose provisional titles are as follows:
‘Making Place and (Re)Producing Space. Migrant Domestic Workers and their Everyday Lives in Singapore’, Laura Antona
Laura Antona presented a summary of the first year of her PhD research – which focuses on the everyday lives of migrant domestic workers in Singapore. In particular, Laura’s work focuses on how migrant domestic workers are able to shape space in Singapore, considering specifically their home-making practices. Singapore, like many other countries, has seen a huge increase in its migrant domestic worker population over the last few decades and it has been suggested that changing demographics, and less welfare support, have resulted in a global care deficit. This shortage has been met by individualised responses that see families increasingly relying on the employment of a ‘reserve’ army of women, often from the global south, who migrate to take on reproductive labour. Visa regulations mark these women as temporary and ‘other’ – denied reproductive rights and expected to live in the home of their employer. Their ambivalent position disrupts normative frameworks and dominant ideologies, becoming an embodiment of tensions over who belongs and who doesn’t.
‘The pursuit of beauty and being-in-the-city: practices of beauty in urban Ghana’, Kate Dawson
In more recent years, in both urban studies and the social sciences more generally, the African city has been situated as a space from which we can learn about the urban condition more generally. In this movement, several narratives have emerged that speak to and of the African city, reminding us of the many flows, ideas, people, spaces, bodies, rhythms, materialities, temporalities and exchanges that produce and are produced by the ‘urban.’ Through exploring these many layers, Kate Dawson has begun to think more closely about how it is that people dwell in these narratives. In doing so, we might ask, how is the self – as a body, person, mind, spirit – positioned as an experiencing subject in all of this? By considering such questions, Kate thinks that the pursuit of beauty is a useful way of looking at the self and being-in-the-city. Indeed, exploring this significant and widespread aspect of urban life allows us to understanding something about how people negotiate multiple heres, elsewheres, flows and influences in the production of the self, and how this production of the self and thus ways of being-in-the-city, are intersected by multiple axes of power. Taking the vast urbanity of Accra, Ghana as a space of potential knowledge, Kate is looking to explore how and why inhabitants of the city pursue beauty; the extent to which we can understand this pursuit of beauty as a way of being-in-the-city; and how this pursuit of beauty and its related ways of being-in-the-city might produce cityness in particular ways.
‘The new generation of Chinese migrants: Communication technologies, migration and integration into the Chinese megacity’, Carwyn Morris
Carwyn Morris gave a rundown of how his doctoral research has been going during his first year, with supervisor Claire Mercer. Carwyn’s research focuses on internal migration in China, and understands this migration through the lens of ‘translocalism’, a theory of understand migration and migrants that builds on the foundations of transnationalism, but one that tackles transnationalism overreliance on the nation state and national borders, a problem for researching China’s more than 260 million internal migrants. Carwyn is also attempting to understand this migration through the theory of practice, which has been worked on by Bourdieu, Schatzki and Reckwitz, among others. Using the theory of practice, Carwyn is theorizing migration as a bundle of practices, including the dual focuses of his proposed fieldwork in Beijing, the practices of ‘mediated intimacy’ and ‘reproduction of locality’, two practices that aid in sustaining migration. He is hoping that this translocal and practice theory orientated analytical framework will help him understand the different, and often invisible, everyday social practices that aid in and sustain migration, such as using ones mobile phone on public transport after work, an act which allows someone to connect with friends and family living in different places, thus lessening the need to make return journeys.
‘Hayek in the “people’s home”? Exploring local Swedish Social Democracy in the ‘Age of Neoliberalism’, Carl Truedsson
Carl Truedsson shared the progress of his first year of doctoral research. Carl’s research considers the idea of neoliberalism within the Swedish Social Democratic Party. Social scientists often assert that the Social Democratic party has, and continues to be, in a state of crisis due to the party’s adoption of a ‘neoliberal’ worldview. Carl’s research is premised on the assertion that this understanding of party politics is coarse, totalizing and therefore unfruitful. Approaching social democracy in this manner effectively discounts agency, territorial and regional variation, political pragmatism/opportunism and fails to consider what other factors might contribute to shaping social democratic thought and praxis. Therefore, Carl is interested in ethnographically exploring the everyday ‘meaning-making’ of social democracy, the relationship between ‘ordinary’ members and party elites, and the interplay between ‘local’ municipal party praxis and the regional and national levels of the party. His preliminary field site is Katrineholm, a mid-sized municipality located 90 miles to the west of the capital city, Stockholm.