Witnessing Loss in the Everyday: Community Buildings in Austerity Britain

Robinson, Katherine and Sheldon, Ruth. 2019. Witnessing Loss in the Everyday: Community Buildings in Austerity Britain. The Sociological Review, 67(1), pp. 111-125. ISSN 0038-0261 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article is concerned with what happens to precarious community buildings in times of austerity. It responds to a landscape of capitalist realism, in which instrumental, economic forms of value are mobilised to justify the closure of ordinary buildings whose survival is not identified as a political priority. We focus on two London cases of a library and an elderly day centre under threat of closure, and trace how grammars of austerity rendered these buildings substitutable. Considering how abstract sociological conceptions of value/s can struggle to break into the embedded common sense of austerity, we explore how ethnographic practices of collaboration and attentiveness can help amplify alternative expressions of the meanings of these buildings for their communities. Enacting a form of ethnographic witnessing, which learns from Wittgenstein, we highlight the creative, vernacular registers and gestures of library users and day centre members, and we show how these were anchored in the buildings themselves. In this way, we supplement noisier, more hyperbolic accounts of the violence of austerity by amplifying quotidian modes of response, which express how ordinary buildings and the forms of life they sustain, matter.

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Buildings, Ethnography, Loss, Ordinary language, Value, Values

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2 August 2018Accepted
11 September 2018Published Online
1 January 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

09 Aug 2018 14:08

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2021 01:27

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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