image of The static welfare claimant vs. the dynamic migrant
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The study analyses YouTube comments attached to an episode of (a British factual welfare television programme) which enregister two figures of personhood: “The static, unmotivated British benefits claimant” and “the dynamic, driven migrant”. Using Park’s (2021) critical heuristic of time, space and affect, the study finds that the welfare claimant figure is constructed as a social failure, and the migrant as both a yardstick (to measure the failure) and a rattan stick (to punish it). The key factor is mobility: The migrant experiences social mobility via mental mobility (i.e., motivation) and spatial mobility (i.e., travelling for opportunities). The welfare claimant’s lack of mental and spatial mobility prevents their social mobility. Ultimately, the paper argues that contrasting the figures represents an attack on rootedness and a celebration of neoliberal mobility based in ideals of meritocracy and the erasure of social class as a relevant construct.


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