A unique and innovative research project into the social impact of spending cuts to communities and families in has been turned into the ’s first multisensory exhibition on the issue of austerity.
‘Six Families, Two Years, One Researcher: An Exhibition of Everyday Life in Austerity’ takes place at The University of Manchester’s Samuel Alexander building, from 11th-15th July.
The project is the culmination of two years of ethnographic research by Dr Sarah Marie Hall, in collaboration with North West artist, Stef Bradley. The ethnographic research carried out by Dr Hall involved working closely with families heavily impacted by austerity to gather first-hand, personal accounts of their everyday lives, rather than concentrating on statistical data and number crunching.
This approach was taken as Dr Hall, an expert in Human Geography from the University’s , Education and Development (SEED), says research into socio-economic issues, such as austerity, needs to focus more on people that it affects directly.
Dr Hall said: “We need to understand that austerity is more than a social and economic condition. It is also as a very personal issue. The impacts of austerity reach far and wide, where people are affected directly and indirectly, including friends, family and acquaintances. This research, and subsequent exhibition, looks beyond the word ‘austerity’ and asks what does it look and feel like? And what impact does it have on people’s everyday practices, relationships and experiences?”
The exhibition has also been designed so the research engages the general public and is accessible and empowering to those who have been directly affected by austerity.
Dr Hall added: “One of the fundamental problems with academic research into socio-economic issues, such as austerity, is the way data is collated and published. Unless it is covered in the press, how can anyone outside of academic and research circles see it, let alone relate to it? Traditional research practices can sometimes alienate the very people the research is trying to help. This exhibition is designed to engage and empower that audience.”
The research also found that in the social and economic groups that are mostly effected by spending cuts, it is the women who are ‘bearing the brunt’ of austerity:
Dr Hall added: “One of the key things my work with these families has exposed is that women in communities heavily impacted by spending cuts are definitely bearing the brunt of austerity.
“This is evident through the effect on their labour – both paid and unpaid; by the impact to their social relationships and roles with friends and family, and in their general overall outlook on life through what is perceived as limited possibilities and aspirations for the future.”