Rituals of Care: Reimagining welfare

Meike Schalk, Sara Brolund de Carvalho


The legendary Swedish welfare state model comprised, on its smallest scale, an infrastructure of ‘common rooms’ (gemensamhetslokaler). Here, we explore common rooms as a spatio-social concept inspired by ‘the commons’. We argue that common rooms were fundamental to the Swedish welfare state model until the 1990s, and that the divorce of the spatial dimension from the social apparatus contributed to their decline. Using recent common rooms (Gemeinschaftsräume) in subsidized housing in Vienna as our empirical example, we illustrate how collectivity is influenced by changing legal frameworks, with common rooms receiving new attention in recent sustainable housing policies. On the micro level, we explore how these have led to paranoid constructions, but also to reparative acts and rituals of care for common rooms and their communities. What can we learn from this, and what larger structures of care can we develop for the future?

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