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The Politics of Disgust: The Public Identity of the Welfare Queen

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Winner of the 2006 Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Organized Section Best First Book Award from the American Political Science Association Winner of the 2006 W.E.B. DuBois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists Ange-Marie Hancock argues that longstanding beliefs about poor African American mothers were the foundation for the contentious 1996 welf Winner of the 2006 Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Organized Section Best First Book Award from the American Political Science Association Winner of the 2006 W.E.B. DuBois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists Ange-Marie Hancock argues that longstanding beliefs about poor African American mothers were the foundation for the contentious 1996 welfare reform debate that effectively "ended welfare as we know it." By examining the public identity of the so-called welfare queen and its role in hindering democratic deliberation, The Politics of Disgust shows how stereotypes and politically motivated misperceptions about race, class and gender were effectively used to instigate a politics of disgust. The ongoing role of the politics of disgust in welfare policy is revealed here by using content analyses of the news media, the 1996 congressional floor debates, historical evidence and interviews with welfare recipients themselves. Hancock's incisive analysis is both compelling and disturbing, suggesting the great limits of today's democracy in guaranteeing not just fair and equitable policy outcomes, but even a fair chance for marginalized citizens to participate in the process.


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Winner of the 2006 Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Organized Section Best First Book Award from the American Political Science Association Winner of the 2006 W.E.B. DuBois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists Ange-Marie Hancock argues that longstanding beliefs about poor African American mothers were the foundation for the contentious 1996 welf Winner of the 2006 Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Organized Section Best First Book Award from the American Political Science Association Winner of the 2006 W.E.B. DuBois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists Ange-Marie Hancock argues that longstanding beliefs about poor African American mothers were the foundation for the contentious 1996 welfare reform debate that effectively "ended welfare as we know it." By examining the public identity of the so-called welfare queen and its role in hindering democratic deliberation, The Politics of Disgust shows how stereotypes and politically motivated misperceptions about race, class and gender were effectively used to instigate a politics of disgust. The ongoing role of the politics of disgust in welfare policy is revealed here by using content analyses of the news media, the 1996 congressional floor debates, historical evidence and interviews with welfare recipients themselves. Hancock's incisive analysis is both compelling and disturbing, suggesting the great limits of today's democracy in guaranteeing not just fair and equitable policy outcomes, but even a fair chance for marginalized citizens to participate in the process.

47 review for The Politics of Disgust: The Public Identity of the Welfare Queen

  1. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Continuing in my anthropological readings, I took on Hancock’s The Politics of Disgust: The Public Identity of the Welfare Queen. This seemed like a logical follow up to Marcus’s Where have all the homeless gone. This book-length treatment of the public image of welfare recipients and especially the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Act (PRWA) of 1996 would have been better rendered as a long article, perhaps 20 to 40 pages. At 250+ pages, it’s full of repetitions. However, it could Continuing in my anthropological readings, I took on Hancock’s The Politics of Disgust: The Public Identity of the Welfare Queen. This seemed like a logical follow up to Marcus’s Where have all the homeless gone. This book-length treatment of the public image of welfare recipients and especially the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Act (PRWA) of 1996 would have been better rendered as a long article, perhaps 20 to 40 pages. At 250+ pages, it’s full of repetitions. However, it could also be a fine class syllabus on the topic, as it continually reinforces past learnings as it moves through its theses. Hancock presents the politics of disgust as characterized by four features: perversion of democratic attention; monological not intersubjective communications; representative thinking; and finally a lack of solidarity between citizens marked and unmarked as the target of the PRWA legislation. The first of these features means not providing attention to all citizens claims, thus presented a highly circumscribed view of the issue at hand. The second feature implies that one has one voice in front of a large microphone instead of many voices. Representative thinking is when people react to stereotypes or the representative image of a person or issue, instead of the actual person or issue. In other words, the politics of disgust displays how emotions regulate power relationships. This brings to mind, for me, the frame concept I discussed in my posting on Lakoff’s book. Stereotypes are frames we have in our head; and we’re more likely to throw away facts that discredit those frames rather than disposing of the frame. A large portion of her analysis is textually-based, looking at public, media, and Congressional documents and how they frame, or de-frame, welfare recipients. This analysis shines a light on the public identity of welfare recipients, an identity that “serves as an unconscious filter through which Americans receive the policy options presented in pubic discourse about welfare reform” (Hancock 2004: 115). She notes how “policy options were discussed, selected, and implemented with no effective contributions from those affected most” (Hancock 2004: 115). More insidiously, this public identity serves to delegitimize welfare recipients’ claims and lived experiences. She writes that “democratic deliberation falters as public identities long debunked by empirical research persist in the memories of elites and citizens” (Hancock 2004: 150). While welfare recipients have agency, the ability to act themselves in the public sphere, this agency can be severely circumscribed by the construction of the public they inhabit. In an epilogue, she looks at the renewal process of the PRWA Act under the second Bush administration. With the President turning towards faith-based, hetero-normative values, he is seeking to impose ideology rather than policy. The administration posits marriage as a panacea to income and social inequities, without any regard to how this devalues female voices and potentially forces woman back into abusive relationships that some of these woman fled from. Welfare was their safety area and with it being removed, the return to the nest, as it were, is not a medicine that’s palatable to them.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dominique

    Dr. Hancock was hands-down my favorite professor at USF. I can't wait to read her book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fate's Lady

    This book is quite information dense and very academically written with multiple citations per page. Despite the dry reading, it lays out very clearly the way assumptions and biases shape our perceptions of welfare recipients, and how disgust for that fictional welfare queen has allowed us to gut the welfare system and perpetuate programs that do not actively help people to escape poverty. Good information, if a little repetitive.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

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    Hayley Woodbridge

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    Taylor Daily

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    candide_in_ohio

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