Revealing the violence of austerity through aesthetics of the undead
Ms Daisy PowellZoom
Austerity policies implemented in the wake of the 2007/08 global financial crash have demonised and adversely impacted disabled and debilitated populations living in Britain. Since 2010, successive Conservative governments, supported by the right-wing press, have drawn on deeply embedded cultural anxieties surrounding disability and dependence to revive the concept of the ‘undeserving poor’ and justify cuts to benefits provision, social care and public services. This paper explores how austerity fictions creatively reveal the obscured violence of austerity and challenge the neoliberal ideology that there is no alternative.
Analysing Niall Griffiths’ 2019 novel Broken Ghost, I examine the aesthetic figures of the undead through a disability lens, engaging with spectrality theory, hauntology and Martin O’Brien’s ‘zombie time’. I argue that the metaphorical figure of the zombie depicts states of living death and the rotting corpse of the welfare state, while the aesthetic device of the spectre brings to light the in/visibility of the debilitated protagonists, who are both highly visible spectacles and socially and politically erased.
Engaging with Robert McRuer’s ‘crip times’, I suggest that the novel’s ‘spectral times’ uncover and interrogate the embodied violence of austerity while offering moments of resistance and alternative models of labour, housing and care.