Youth and austerity in the city: geographies of precarity in disadvantaged urban areas in Ireland

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van Lanen, Sander
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University College Cork
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This thesis presents a qualitative understanding of the transformations of urban life and space in the context of austerity. It argues that the lifeworld of disadvantaged urban youth increasingly tightened as opportunities for employment, personal development and independent living diminish. As urban neoliberalisation intensifies, urban space excludes young people from ‘decent’ urban living or even the city itself. The urban roots and impacts of the 2008 financial crisis are well documented. However, where such work investigates new structural conditions and policies, this thesis focusses on its recipients to explore the lived experiences and spaces of austerity. Through a critical return to humanistic geographies, especially the lifeworld, the ‘lifeworld assemblage’ is developed to bridge conceptions of place as constructed through networks of resources, power and knowledge, and the spatial experiences and meanings of those inhabiting the city-after-austerity. This concept is applied to disadvantaged urban youth in Ireland, one of the groups most severely affected by austerity. To investigate this group’s everyday lived experiences of austerity urbanism, 33 individuals aged 18 to 25 were interviewed, living in two of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Ireland: Knocknaheeny (Cork) and Ballymun (Dublin). First, austerity policy is assessed to establish how it creates and enhances spaces of exclusion, deepening exploitation and extending precariousness into the sphere of social reproduction. It then proceeds, using interview data and the lifeworld assemblage, to explore how local geographies determine the specific austerity encounters of disadvantaged urban youth. Next, it is argued that the lifeworld becomes saturated with neoliberal logic, denying any diverging horizon or possibility, with a specific focus on the labour market, urban accommodation and support services. Finally, austerity’s effect on youth’s multi-scalar sense of place is investigated using ‘at-homeness’. It is shown that varying scales carry different meanings for disadvantaged urban youth and play specific roles in the austerity experience. As years of austerity dramatically transformed Irish society, understanding its experience by those most vulnerable provides a critical position to interrogate how austerity gets embedded in personal and spatial relations, how it contributes to systemic colonisation of the lifeworld, and to identify the range of scales and sites from which austerity has emerged. It also provides the means to examine how the population has perceived and negotiated these impacts on and in their lifeworld.
Austerity urbanism , Precarity , Lifeworld , Austerity , Youth , Social exclusion , Urban disadvantage , Lifeworld assemblage
van Lanen, S. 2017. Youth and austerity in the city: geographies of precarity in disadvantaged urban areas in Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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