Minority Women and Austerity

Our research project explores minority women's activism in the context of the on-going economic crisis and austerity measures in Scotland, England and France. We examine the differing ways in which minority women seek to advance a politics that names complex and multiple inequalities and the dilemmas they face when attempting to build new coalitions and new solidarities in these uncertain times.


Dr Leah Bassel

Leah Bassel

New Blood Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Leicester. Her research interests include the political sociology of gender, migration, race and citizenship.  She is the author of the monograph, Refugee Women: Beyond Gender versus Culture (Routledge, 2012), and her work has also been published in journals including Politics & Gender, Ethnicities, Government and Opposition and Sociology. Her current research focuses on migrants’ experiences of the citizenship test process in the UK. She is also author of the report Media and the Riots: A Call for Action, which was submitted as evidence to the Leveson Enquiry. She is Assistant Editor of the journal Citizenship Studies. Leah is co-convener of the Leicester Migration Network, an interdisciplinary initiative that brings together over 80 colleagues from across the University of Leicester and the city. 

Dr Akwugo Emejulu

Akwugo Emejulu

Senior Lecturer, founding programme director of the MSc Social Justice and Community Action and a co-director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES) at the University of Edinburgh. She is author of ‘Community Development as Micropolitics: Comparing Theories, Policies and Politics in America and Britain’ (Policy Press, 2015). Her research includes: investigating racial and gender social and economic inequalities in a comparative perspective and exploring the grassroots organising of marginalised groups for social welfare and social citizenship. Her current work focuses on women of colour’s collective actions for social justice in anti-austerity and Black Lives Matter movements in Europe and the United States.

The project was funded from the following sources: British Academy Small Grant (January 2013 to June 2014, £9K), Centre for Education for Race Equality in Scotland, University of Edinburgh (2011-present, £6K), College of Social Science Research Development Fund, University of Leicester (2011-2012, £1K).

Project Outputs

Bassel, L. and Emejulu, A. (under contract and forthcoming 2017) The Politics of Survival: Minority Women, Activism and Austerity in France and Britain. Bristol: Policy Press. The 2008 economic crisis and subsequent austerity measures represent a contradictory moment for minority women in France and Britain. On the one hand, the ‘crisis’ is not necessarily a new experience for these women. In pre-crisis France and Britain, minority women were already in precarious social and economic circumstances. On the other hand, however, crisis and austerity do represent an important change in the circumstances of minority women. Due to the asymmetrical impacts of austerity, minority women are disproportionately disadvantaged by cuts to public spending thus sharpening and deepening their existing inequalities.

Despite minority women’s routinised experiences of inequality, they are not passive objects at the mercy of economic restructurings and particular policy priorities. Minority women, often operating in hostile contexts among ostensible allies, are organising and mobilising in innovative ways to advance their intersectional social justice claims. Our new book examines minority women’s experiences of and activism within the austerity regimes of France and Britain. Through in depth case studies of the particular dynamics of austerity and activism in Scotland, England and France, we explore how the rebalancing of relations between the state, the market and civil society generate both opportunities and dilemmas for minority women activists, advancing a ‘politics of survival’ in these uncertain times.

Minority Women, Activism and Austerity

Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel
(Race & Class / Volume 57 / Issue 02 / October-December 2015, pp 86-95)

Based on their study of minority women’s activism in the context of the economic crisis in Scotland, England and France, the authors question how well third sector organisations, policy-makers and social movements have responded to minority women’s perspectives and needs arising from austerity and racism. Apart from being disproportionately affected by the cuts, minority women are also undermined by dominant discourses which can (mis)represent them as either ‘victims’ or ‘enterprising actors’. There appears, from the excerpted interviews, to be a disconnect between minority women’s experiences and analyses of their precarity, their desire to take radical action and the compliant and domesticating projects and programmes that are currently being offered by some of their third sector ‘allies’.


Solidarity under Austerity: Intersectionality in France and the United Kingdom

Leah Bassel and Akwugo Emejulu
(Politics & Gender / Volume 10 / Issue 01 / March 2014, pp 130-136)

In this article, we argue that in order to understand and counter the asymmetrical effects of the current economic crisis, intersectional analyses and coalition building are required. Our research aims to address a tendency in some intersectionality research to underplay or sideline social class and capitalist relations (Anthias 2012, 6, 15; Skeggs 2008). Our goal is to expand intersectionality to questions of political economy that are not typically viewed through this lens (Strolovitch 2013, 168). Sophisticated theorizations of social locations, divisions, processes of differentiation, and systems of domination (Dhamoon 2011) within intersectionality literature can thus become tools to name and challenge the effects of the economic crises that are deepening social and economic inequalities in Europe.


Struggles for Institutional Space in France and the United Kingdom: Intersectionality  and the Politics of Policy

Leah Bassel and Akwugo Emejulu
(Politics & Gender / Volume 6 / Issue 04 / March 2010, pp 517-544)

This article uses intersectionality as an analytical tool to explore struggles for institutional space in policy processes in two ostensibly contrasting contexts: “republican” France and the “multicultural” United Kingdom. Specifically, the article undertakes within-case analysis of three policy processes. In France, we discuss the debate over laïcité, or secularism, the subsequent formulation of the March 2004 law banning the wearing of religious signs in state schools, and the creation of the High Authority for the Fight Against Discrimination (HALDE). In the UK, we examine the problem definitions, language, and subject positions constructed by the 2008 Single Equality Bill. The result of these analyses is that institutional actors employ similar (though not identical) practices in relation to intersections, which have similar outcomes for minority groups on either side of the English Channel. Through what we term a “logic of separation,” institutional actors severely curtail the “institutional space” available to minority ethnic groups to make complex and intersectional social justice claims. Even though France and the UK are often portrayed as opposites with regard to constructions of citizenship, we argue that these seemingly differing traditions of citizenship end up having a similar effect of misrecognizing minority women and men’s experiences and demands.





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