‘I’ve always felt these spaces were ours’: disability activism and austerity capitalism: Reflections on City’s interview with DPAC.

Humphry, Debbie (2023). ‘I’ve always felt these spaces were ours’: disability activism and austerity capitalism: Reflections on City’s interview with DPAC. City: analysis of urban change, theory, action, 27(1-2) pp. 162–189.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13604813.2023.2172907


This paper reflects on City’s interview with the UK activist group, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), examining their practices of resistance within the broader structural frame of austerity capitalism. This enables an exploration of how capitalism has constructed disability as an exclusionary category over time to support the accumulation of wealth, from urban industrialisation to austerity capitalism. The paper also engages with Gargi Bhattacharyya’s argument that austerity is deployed through a post-colonial logic of racialisation, exploring how this notion may be applied to disabled welfare claimants. It also explores her argument that austerity marks a shift towards a post-consent politics but argues that both coercion and consent are key dimensions of state governance that seek to produce public acquiescence to punitive policies that threaten disabled people’s livelihoods and lives. Indeed, the multiple struggles against austerity, including those by DPAC, clearly indicate the failure of moves towards a post-consent politics. The paper demonstrates how the city, therefore, is not only a key site for exclusion but also a central site for resistance. DPAC’s resistances disrupt and contest austerity’s processes and model an alternative prefigurative politics based on collaborative care and the use value of social reproduction. This opens up possibilities for post-capitalist futures and a right to the city based on collective rights and power. DPAC positions itself as both an identity and a class campaign, integrating reformist strategies into a longer-term anti-capitalist agenda and reaching outwards to other urban struggles that are on the work of Mary Jean Hande, this paper argues that disabled people are not simply worthy of inclusion when theorising and constructing anti-capitalist and urban resistance, but are integral to and at the forefront of such struggles.

Plain Language Summary

The paper explores disabled people's resistance to austerity in the UK, based on interviews with members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). The analysis outlines the history of people being categorised as disabled during industrial capitalism, resulting in exclusions from the workplace, then discusses how austerity capitalist policies in the UK since 2010 have resulted in new forms of categorisation and exclusion, with devastating impacts on disabled claimants. The paper, however, goes on to elaborate on the ways that disabled people have come together to resist austerity's threats to their livelihoods and lives, using innovative and effective methods. In the context of wider urban populations that are increasingly harmed both mentally and physically by ongoing austerity policies, the paper argues that disabled people are integral to and at the forefront of urban resistances against austerity.

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