"Social infrastructures of care and the everyday mobilities of new parents in the austere city" as part of the session "Social Infrastructures and the Public Life of Cities: materialities, institutions, and practices - Session 2"

Care and caring practices are fundamental to the social infrastructures of communities, cities and nations. In the UK, policies of austerity have placed disproportionate budgetary pressure onto cities. Faced with difficult decisions as to which services to maintain, local authorities have narrowed the remit, whilst encouraging communities to become service providers themselves. As such, care is reconfigured on multiple fronts, where newly emergent social infrastructures of care are frequently laden with value-judgments as to what (adequate) care entails, and who counts as a subject of care. Research on parenting shows that the experience of becoming a parent is rarely something new parents can anticipate. Social ideals of parenthood, personal expectations and biographical trajectories often emerge in tension with the unfolding, messy experiences of parenting. New parents find themselves having to navigate a city whose geography is marked by dramatic shifts between different social infrastructures of care. As such, the practice of caring for young children requires increasing negotiation not only with a range of diverse actors, but across a range of different spaces including, but not limited to, health centres, cafes/restaurants, nurseries, church groups, public spaces, and libraries. This paper draws upon research examining the everyday caring practices of new parents under austerity urbanism. In particular, we look at how experiences of different spaces in the austere city shape new parents’ sense of what it means to be a parent, as well as the multiple ways in which they navigate the ruptures and continuities of diverse social infrastructures of care.