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Societies 2016, 6(3), 28;

“Activated, but Stuck”: Applying a Critical Occupational Lens to Examine the Negotiation of Long-Term Unemployment in Contemporary Socio-Political Contexts

School of Occupational Therapy, University of Western Ontario, Elborn College 1201 Western Rd, London, ON N6G 1H1, Canada
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO 63103, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Nick Pollard and Dikaios Sakellariou
Received: 20 May 2016 / Revised: 26 August 2016 / Accepted: 26 August 2016 / Published: 8 September 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Human Doing through an Occupational Lens)
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Background: Solutions for the problem of long-term unemployment are increasingly shaped by neoliberally-informed logics of activation and austerity. Because the implications of these governing frameworks for everyday life are not well understood, this pilot study applied a critical occupational science perspective to understand how long-term unemployment is negotiated within contemporary North American socio-political contexts. This perspective highlights the implications of policy and employment service re-configurations for the range of activities that constitute everyday life. Methods: Using a collaborative ethnographic community-engaged research approach, we recruited eight people in Canada and the United States who self-identified as experiencing long-term unemployment. We analyzed interviews and observation notes concerning four participants in each context using open coding, critical discourse analysis, and situational analysis. Results: This pilot study revealed a key contradiction in participants’ lives: being “activated, but stuck”. This contradiction resulted from the tension between individualizing, homogenizing frames of unemployment and complex, socio-politically shaped lived experiences. Analysis of this tension revealed how participants saw themselves “doing all the right things” to become re-employed, yet still remained stuck across occupational arenas. Conclusion: This pilot study illustrates the importance of understanding how socio-political solutions to long-term unemployment impact daily life and occupational engagement beyond the realm of job seeking and job acquisition. View Full-Text
Keywords: occupation; unemployment; neoliberalism; austerity; activation; precarious employment occupation; unemployment; neoliberalism; austerity; activation; precarious employment

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Laliberte Rudman, D.; Aldrich, R. “Activated, but Stuck”: Applying a Critical Occupational Lens to Examine the Negotiation of Long-Term Unemployment in Contemporary Socio-Political Contexts. Societies 2016, 6, 28.

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