“I’m just going to hear them, and ensure that this is a space for them to hear each other—and themselves as well.” —Derica Shields
The writer Derica Shields joins Alexander Provan and Nikita Gale for the third episode of Medium Rotation. She talks about her oral history of Black experiences of the welfare state, “A Heavy Nonpresence,” and about the value of listening to Black peoples’ accounts and analyses of their own lives. “A Heavy Nonpresence,” recently published by Triple Canopy, shows how, in the UK, liberal nostalgia for the welfare state is premised not on actually listening to those who receive benefits. Instead, politicians and journalists make romantic appeals to a time before austerity: a maneuver that enables welfare recipients to be shamed for accessing services to which they’re entitled. Shields suggests that oral history can mitigate shame, facilitate survival, and challenge the age-old distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor (which hinges on ignoring the history of colonialism).
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“We are here, and the same rights accrue to us.” On listening to Black peoples’ accounts and analyses of their own lives.