CfP: Hard Times – Austerity and Popular Culture

Although the British Prime Minister David Cameron popularised the renowned axiom ‘the age of  austerity’ in a speech of 2009, political discourse has long given shape to popular rhetoric on  the subject. The sentiments of ‘make do and mend’ and ‘boom and bust’ offers two such  examples that have filtered into popular and national conscious. Indeed, there have been  memorable occasions when political parties have sought to appropriate the vehicle of popular  culture to articulate their agendas; who can forget Tony Blair’s use of the D:Ream dance  anthem ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ as part of the Labour Party’s Manifesto in the 1996
General Election, for example?

However, political idiom is not the sole medium to express the effects of austerity, recession  and the global economic crisis in contemporary society. From Jarvis Cocker’s glamorisation of  the sexual tension between the ‘haves’ and have nots’ in Pulp’s ‘Common People’, to Morrissey’s cynical yet dulcet tones espousing what today’s Government might describe as  the scourge of benefit culture in The Smith’s ‘Still Ill’, popular culture has sought continually  to explore and engage with the social and cultural manifestations of recession and austerity. John Self, the protagonist of Martin Amis’s Money learned hard lessons about ‘maxed out’  credit cards in the Thatcherite Yuppie culture of the 1980s, but the summer of 2013 will see  Kirstie Allsopp share her austerity-inspired know-how with prime-time audiences in the  Channel 4 television series Fill Your House For Free.

Our edited book collection, Hard Times: Austerity and Popular Culture seeks to map the diverse ways in which austerity is—and has been—reflected in and by popular culture. We  solicit submissions on any aspect of austerity in popular culture that can offer new and innovative insights into its representation and ideologies.
In what ways have literature, film and television, and music (amongst other cultural modes) given expression to austerity? How are its effects conveyed? What commentaries does popular culture offer on, about or towards the age of austerity? How has the expression of austerity in  popular culture changed over time, and what lessons about representations of austerity in  popular culture from the past can be learnt in the present? Can popular culture have a  significant influence in shifting our attitudes towards political discourses of austerity? In soliciting submissions from across the arts and humanities, the editors welcome submissions
that could consider the following themes:

  • Representing recession
  • Credit and spending culture
  • Boom and bust – individual and cultural
  • The Gendering of austerity
  • Thrift chic
  • Self-sufficiency vs. spending cuts
  • The austere family
  • Race, disability, and/or class and austerity
  • Benefits culture(s)
  • Nostalgia and austerity
  • Representing contemporary austerity through the past
  • Unemployment and/or poverty
  • Youth and austerity
  • Revolution, revolt and protest  against austere times

Please submit abstracts of 600 words and a short biographical note to both editors, Dr Helen Davies  ( and Dr Claire O’Callaghan ( by 31st January 2014. If  accepted, completed chapters of 6000 words will be expected by 1st September 2014. A proposal  will be submitted to I.B. Tauris from whom we have a received an expression of interest.

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