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Austerity's afterlives? The case of community asset transfer in the UK

Turnbull, Neil 2023. Austerity's afterlives? The case of community asset transfer in the UK. The Geographical Journal 10.1111/geoj.12513

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In the UK, community infrastructure and the care that it provides has been at the sharp end of swingeing government cuts brought about through austere economics and politics. One local manifestation, and legacy, of austerity is the rise in Community Asset Transfer (CAT), a practice whereby local authorities transfer the ownership of public assets to community groups. CAT may predominantly be understood through the lexicon of austerity localism where the state—driven by fiscal pressures—offloads publicly owned buildings onto community groups. However, narrowly applied this interpretation leaves little room for the possibility and/or recognition of other politics which may exist on the ground. In response, this paper sets out a non‐foundational approach to CAT practice that involves in‐depth ethnographic analysis of three CAT community centres in a Welsh local authority. Following Gibson‐Graham's (2006, A postcapitalist politics) call to read for difference rather than dominance, and conscious of the ambivalent politics of CAT, I trace ways in which care is practiced in these new spaces through momentary acts and even explicit political engagement. CATs are experiments in care that allow us a glimpse into the life of community infrastructure after the passing of direct state support. Exploring the afterlives of these assets—and their relational and emotional geographies—reveals an affective politics and orientation not necessarily aligned with neoliberal rationales. Indeed, despite their fragile configuration, CAT practices must be acknowledged, questioned, and considered as part of the wider debate on the future(s) of post‐welfare care.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Architecture
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0016-7398
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 April 2023
Date of Acceptance: 1 March 2023
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2023 01:00

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