Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

The relational politics of equalities policy making

May 2006 - May 2011

This project develops a new way of thinking about governance and policy making in welfare. Its aim is to explore the gap between rhetoric and 'reality' in equalities work.

The project draws together empirical work from two previous projects in health and social care and the learning and skills sector with new work on the development of the new UK Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

In common with other more discursive approaches to governance, the project explores policy as the result of complex non-linear macro and micro processes involving multiple actors: professionals, users and a variety of 'higher level' stakeholders across policy fields.

However, the study also explores the less considered operation of gendered and raced power in policy making as this is constituted through, and constitutive of, the emotions. It is this combination of elements that make up the relational politics of policy making at the intersection of micro and macro social processes.

These emotional dimensions of policy development are important because of the ways in which they attach themselves to certain constituents within the policy making process. They become powerful means of marginalisation and inclusion, blocking and facilitating developments in policy and implementation.

Theoretically, the project builds on Dr Shona Hunter's earlier work where she developed a feminist psychosocial approach to relational identity and agency in order to understand the dynamics of this relational politics. This interdisciplinary approach draws together a range of theory including feminist, critical race, queer, psychodynamic and actor network approaches to explore the collective emotional dynamics that infuse policy making.

Project Publications

Hunter, S. and Swan, E. (2007) (eds) Equal Opportunities International Vol. 26(5) Special Issue on The Politics of Equality: professionals, states and activist.

(Including Hunter, S. and Swan, E. 'The Politics of equality: professionals, states and activists' pp 377-386; Hunter, S. and Swan, E. 'Oscillating politics and shifting agencies: equalities and diversity work and actor network theory' pp 402-419; Hunter, S. and Swan, E. 'Interview with Angela Mason on trips to Skegness, Maoists and briefings with the minister: A life in equalities work' pp 482-496.)

Hunter, S. (forthcoming) 'Living Documents: a feminist psychosocial approach to the relational politics of policy documentation.' Critical Social Policy. Special Issue on Psychosocial Approaches to Welfare.

Hunter, S. (in progress) 'Affairs of the Heart: developing an understanding of the relational politics of policy making' for submission to Social Politics, Autumn/Winter 2007.

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