A crying shame : affect, emotion and welfare receipt in New Zealand.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis focuses attention on the welfare setting in New Zealand where welfare policy is administered and put into practice. Within the thesis, I analyse focus groups interviews with 64 New Zealand lone mothers receiving welfare in order to consider how participants made sense of their interactions with the national welfare provider Work and Income New Zealand. The research illustrates the emotional complexity of the welfare environment. This environment, in which the design and delivery of welfare provokes strong feelings, is steeped in emotion. In this thesis I draw upon recent writing in relation to "affect" to argue that, while negative feeling was the origin of many of the troubles the women in my research experienced in the welfare context, emotion also offered participants a way of responding to these difficulties.
Welfare mothers have long been framed by social and historical discourses that constitute them as a "social problem" and a threat to the moral order of this country. In New Zealand these discourses also link ethnicity to welfare dependency, and my analysis pays specific attention to the experiences of Maori and Pasifika women who took part in the research. In this thesis I argue that participants' experiences of welfare receipt were dominated by the negative affect inherent in welfare discourse, and that this had a disciplinary function in the welfare environment. While negative affect shapes this thesis, my analysis also draws attention to other less predictable emotions that formed the "affective practices" (Wetherell, 2012) of research participants as they discussed their experiences of welfare receipt. My interest is in the way that emotion was reconfigured in participants' narratives of these experiences. I argue that attending to affect and emotion can offer a way of understanding its role in the maintenance of dominant welfare discourses, and also a means of exploring possible sites for transformation.