Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Michelle Brady, ‘What ethnography contributes to studies of governmentality’. Paper presented at the 11th Advances in Qualitative Methods Conference, October 2010, October 7-8 2010.

Published as Brady, M. (2011) Researching governmentalities through ethnography: the case of Australian welfare reforms and programs for single parents Critical Policy Studies. Vol 5. No. 3. October. pp.265-283

In this paper I argue that the spaces of freedom and constraint that capacity programs for Australian single parents open up and close down are distinctly different when viewed from a top down perspective of governmental rationalities as compared to a bottom up perspective of what Foucault referred to as the ‘witches’ brew’ of actual practices. Around 90 percent of lone parents with dependent children in Australia are lone mothers, and around 80 percent of these lone mothers receive single rate Parenting Payment. Changes to this payment (and its precursor, Sole Parent Pension) over the last 25 years have recognized this gendered composition by focusing on issues of mothering and the intensive activities of care that continue to be carried out most commonly by mothers. While the 2005 Welfare to Work package appeared to sharply break with this practice by not focusing on gender and the unique features of mothers’ life courses, I find that these considerations have remained a key part of the ‘witches’ brew’ of actual practices. Given this finding, a key argument is that studies of governmentalities which combine sociologies of actual practices together with studies of official governmental rationalities can make important critical contributions.

3 thoughts on “What ethnography contributes to studies of governmentality (2010)

  1. Daniel Murphy says:

    I find this very abstract very compelling – I make very similar arguments in an article I am preparing for publication concerning environmental governance in rural Mongolia. If possible could you send me a copy of your paper? In exchange, I can send you mine as well. Cheers on a nice abstract!


  2. Michelle says:

    I am happy to. What is your email address?


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