Call for papers

Critical Welfare State Studies

Critical Perspectives on Stigma, Shame and the Irish Welfare Imaginary

University College Cork, 20th September 2019

Keynote speaker

Professor Imogen Tyler, Lancaster University

Author of Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain (2013) and Stigma Machines (2020)

The normal and the stigmatized are not persons but rather perspectives’ (Erving Goffman)

Shame is already revolution of a kind’ (Karl Marx)

Contemporary debates around the operations and lived experience of the welfare state have drawn attention to the way in which a particular ‘welfarist imaginary’ (Jensen and Tyler, 2015) can mediate who, what, why and how individuals and particular groups become stigmatised on the basis of their interaction/engagement with the welfare state. In the Irish context historically, scholarship has predominantly focused on the relationship between stigma, shame and the institutionalisation of ‘categories’ of individuals, such as particular groups of women and children, and the way in which the ‘welfarist imaginary’ has been shaped principally by the Catholic social mores and values. In this body of work, stigma and shame has been seen to be mechanisms of social control, discipline and punishment, often under the guise of providing for the ‘welfare’ of abjected individuals/subjects. Following Marx’s observation that ‘shame is already revolution of a kind’, many of these historical episodes are now ‘shameful’ and, as recent political victories attest, many other socio-legal developments have defeated the shame and stigma attached, for example, to abortion and to minority gender and sexual identities. However, the relationship between stigma and shame in the contemporary Irish ‘welfarist imaginary’ is under-explored. Against these backdrops of historical legacies and recent social change, the wider context of twenty-first century of austerity capitalism and the specific dynamics of austerity, precarity, poverty, insecurity, competition, inequality, and constructions of deserving and un-deservingness in these contexts warrant further exploration. This conference thus seeks to capture and advance these multiple dimensions of stigma and shame in Irish welfare state research, analysis and critical debate.

We invite papers that address any aspect of stigma or shame related, but not limited to, any of the following themes, topics and questions:

  • The everyday lived experience of welfare
  • Anti-welfare sentiment
  • Processes of othering and dehumanisation
  • Public and policy discourses
  • Practices of solidarity and resistance
  • Poverty, unemployment, homelessness, mental health, drug use
  • Minority groups and identities
  • Online spaces of shaming and stigma
  • Welfare spaces, shaming and stigma
  • Continuities between past and present welfare stigma
  • Who are the stigmatisers? Who are the shamers? Who benefits? How? Why?

We warmly welcome a diversity of approaches to these topics, themes and questions. Papers may focus on empirical and/or theoretical/conceptual contributions. Theoretical and methodological perspectives may include, but are not limited to: critical political economy cultural political economy, governmentality, post-structuralism, feminism, critical realism, phenomenology, symbolic interactionism. While our core focus is on the contemporary Irish welfare imaginary, historical papers and comparative papers are also very welcome. A variety of disciplinary perspectives including, for example, social policy, sociology, social work, youth and community work, history, politics, geography, media and cultural studies, that engage with stigma, shame and the Irish welfare imaginary are welcome. Researchers from all stages of their career are welcome, from PhD students onwards. Contributions from practitioner perspectives are also welcome.

We envisage that an edited collection, selecting papers from the conference, will be published post-conference. The conference will also be used to establish a Critical Welfare State Studies Network.

Abstract submission: please send abstracts of 300 words to

Abstract deadline: June 14th 2019

Notification of Acceptance: July 19th 2019.

Questions and queries: please get in touch at

Follow us at: @CWSSnetwork Follow this event online with: #CWSS

This conference is organised by Fiona Dukelow, Joe Whelan and Robert Bolton and is co-hosted by the School of Applied Social Studies and ISS21, the Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century, University College Cork.