Non Take-Up of Social Rights: A Subaltern and also Gendered Discourse
Several studies have shown the gendered dimension of social rights (e.g. Marques-Pereira et Pfefferkorn, 2011; Muller, Réjane et al., 2009; Sainsbury, 1996). In Switzerland for example, Togni (2015) has shown how unemployment insurance was historically constructed as a tool for the gendered management of unemployment and employment. In order to problematize how social rights are shaped by gender, Cardi et Devreux (2014) have suggested to take into consideration three specific issues : the production of law, its interpretation and its application. My point is that a fourth issue seems crucial: the way in how actors seek – or not – their rights.
My doctoral thesis is focused on the intentional non take-up of rights and services proposed by the so-called “welfare” state. My perspective is to consider intentional non take-up as a critique of the symbolic and institutional power of the state, in the sense that Bourdieu (2012) gives to this term. I consider in my research intentional non take-up as a subaltern discourse (Chakrabarty, 1995), not heard because disqualified (Spivak, 1988), and even less when coming from dominated groups among the subalterns (e.g. women, racialized categories, etc.). This perspective differs from existing studies that explain non take-up by misinformation, or intentional non take-up by wrong or ill-informed decisions (e.g. Roosma, Van Oorschot et Gelissen, 2016; Van Oorschot, 1998; Warin, 2010).
In my research, I consider that these subaltern discourses are “not disqualified or illegitimate by nature, but rendered or interpreted or represented as such by prevailing power” (Sarker, 2015, p. 100). This perspective allows me to analyse intentional non take-up as a form of agency in an hegemonic system (Foucault, 1980), that call into question what we see as universal. However discourses and practices are shaped by social relations, among them gender relations. In my presentation, I will focus on gendered differences in intentional non take-up of social rights.
The presentation is based on an on-going ethnographic thesis. Data are collected in different fields where people try to create “other” ways of life. These practices are not an answer to a supposed failure of the state, but constitute specific environments with their own moral economy (Fassin, 2009), made of emotions, values and even norms that I try to hear and understand.