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Program: Transformative Change in the Contested Fields of Care and Housing in Europe

An International Conference of the DOC-team 114 in Cooperation with the International Karl Polanyi Society, the Competence Centre for Infrastructure Economics, Public Services and Social Provisioning, Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Aging and Care, and Sorgenetz, Association for the Promotion of Societal Care Culture. Life, Old Age, Dementia and Dying at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, 4th - 6th December 2023.



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Care and housing are foundational for human well-being. Both deal with organising and sustaining livelihoods: while care as a human activity reacts to the ever-given contingency of life, housing arranges a place for undertaking everyday need-satisfying activities. In both fields, crises have exacerbated over the last decades, manifesting in care gaps, labour and care migration, and precarious working conditions of care workers, respectively in overburdening costs due to the transformation of homes into assets, leading to gentrification and segregation. Despite being seldomly investigated together, care and housing as well as their related crises are co-constitutive.

 From the 1990s onwards, two simultaneous tendencies can be observed in European care regimes and housing systems. On the one hand, neoliberal reforms have aimed at privatisation, commodification, marketisation, and financialisaton. This has rearranged welfare states, promoting variegated forms of capitalism. Allegedly singular events like the global financial crisis, subsequent austerity measures, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the current cost of living crisis have furthermore deepened structural problems of access and affordability. This has led to increasing socioeconomic and spatial polarisations as well as social inequalities in the relations of gender, race, and class. On the other hand, these developments have transformed the provision of care and housing into a contested terrain leading to labour disputes and struggles, such as care protests, or initiatives for expropriating institutional investors. The wide range of community-based or infrastructural projects has to be seen against the backdrop of the increasing search for alternative care and housing provision. On top of that, rapid technological developments and climate change further accelerate the reorganisation of care and housing arrangements and practices built up by all parties involved in both contested fields.

 Given these multiple transformations, the conference “Transformative Change in the Contested Fields of Care and Housing in Europe” seeks to analyse the contemporary developments in care regimes and housing systems and respective configurations of care and housing. Of particular interest is research which reflects on the connections of the two fields. We aim at a broad interdisciplinary dialogue of social sciences to grasp different perspectives of these multidimensional changes. Thus, we welcome scholars from disciplines like sociology, socioeconomics, political economy, political science, geography, philosophy, history, and interdisciplinary strands like gender and intersectionality studies to contribute to the common investigation and discussion of the contested and entangled fields of care and housing in Europe. We welcome both, theoretical approaches, and empirical research, to analyse and reflect on the contemporary transformations, its causes, and effects as well as commonalities and differences between fields and countries, between city and countryside.

The conference aims at addressing the following questions with the explicit intention of using multiple theoretical perspectives and to grasp the broad diversity of European countries, regions, and cities: 


• What are the driving forces of transformative change in the fields of care and housing? Which social, economic, political, cultural, and technological dynamics and which norms and values, demands and claims shape modes of care and housing provision?  

• How do markets, the state, the family and the community reorganise care and housing? What are other key actors in different institutional contexts at multiple levels (from local to global)?  

• Which disputes take place in “doing care” and “doing housing”? How do these relate to multi-scalar struggles over working conditions, wages, and affordability as well as the design of liveable neighbourhoods?  

• What are relevant economic and political orders, welfare regimes, and social policies and how do they structure different forms of care and housing provision?  

• How do new modes, forms, and arrangements of care and housing provision promote a different understanding of life and work? How are they interrelated with the reorganisation of paid, unpaid and volunteer, professional and lay work and new forms of work organisation?  

• How are modes of care and housing provision and the transformative change in the configuration of care and housing affected by the development and implementation of digital technologies? How does technological change influence the meaning and organisation of care and housing?  

• How are modes of care and housing provision and the transformative change in the configuration of care and housing affected by the climate crisis? How does it contribute to changes in the governance of communities, neighbourhoods, and the living environment to reconfigure care and housing provision?  

• How do social, economic, gendered, and ethnic inequalities and socio-spatial polarisations shape the organisation of care and housing? How do they affect transformative change, social and ecological demands, and digitalisation of care and housing arrangements?  

• What are the commonalities and differences in the provision of care and housing? How can theoretical and methodological approaches contribute to a better understanding of care and housing in Europe? What are the potentials and limitations of approaches that integrate both fields?


Organizers and chairs: 

Brigitte Aulenbacher

Andreas Novy 

Valentin Fröhlich

Benjamin Baumgartner 

Florian Pimminger

Hans Volmary


Conference assistance: Alexander Eigner

Administration: Tobias Eder


A conference of DOC-team 114 „The Contested Provisioning of Care and Housing, öffnet eine externe URL in einem neuen Fenster“, funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Johannes Kepler University Linz and the WU Vienna, in cooperation with the International Karl Polanyi Society, the Competence Centre for Infrastructure Economics, Public Services and Social Provisioning, Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Aging and Care, and Sorgenetz, Association for the promotion of Societal Care Culture. Life, Old Age, Dementia and Dying.

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