We Keep Calm and Eat Cake: One Born, Austerity and Securing Consent

CISC Seminar Series: Wednesday 24 January, 1-1.30pm

  • Tue 23 Jan - Thu 1 Feb 18


  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Dr Sara De Benedicts

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Sociology, Department of

  • Contact details

    Sheila Marrinan
    01206 874892

Since the inception of One Born Every Minute (Channel 4) in 2010, the programme has risen in popularity and retained a strong presence on prime-time television.

The creation and resulting popularity of the show – which showcases NHS sites and staff – has occurred precisely when the Coalition and Conservative Governments came into power and implemented deep austerity measures. The resulting attack on the welfare state has seen the creeping privatisation of the NHS and worsening conditions for staff and patients. Despite intensive public debates about the welfare state, austerity measures and the NHS since 2010, these discussions are silenced in a show that claims to offer the ‘reality’ of birth, midwifery and hospital life.

In this paper, I aim to unpack this overt celebration of midwifery and indirect glorification of the NHS in One Born at the same time that we see this vocation and system directly threatened and dismantled by austerity measures.

Clarke and Newman (2012) argue that when exploring the ‘“alchemy” of austerity’ it is imperative to ‘engage with the problem of consent’ (Clarke & Newman, 2012: 306).

Considering reality television as an intervention into the social (Skeggs & Wood, 2012) and austerity as a site of ‘discursive struggle’ (Bramall, 2013) with material effects, in this paper I critically examine cultural representations of the NHS and midwifery as a way to unravel this ‘problem of consent’.

Biographical Note:

Dr. Sara De Benedictis is a Lecturer in Media and Communications at Brunel University. Her research interests are in gender, class, birth, motherhood, postfeminism, austerity and reality television. Prior to joining Brunel, she worked on a number of research projects about birth, motherhood and popular culture. Her ESRC funded PhD in Cultural Studies (2016) at King’s College London explored representations of, and reactions to, birth under austerity Britain.

Sara was also a Research Assistant at the London School of Economics for Dr Shani Orgad in the Department of Media and Communications working on a project about representations of stay-at-home mothers and she was a Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham on the Wellcome Trust funded project, Televising Childbirth. Sara is currently working on a new project about reproductive politics in times of austerity.

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