Placing precarity: access and belonging in the shifting landscape of UK mental health care
This paper engages with the notion of ‘embodied belonging’ through an ethnography of the social and material aspects of accessing mental health care in the UK. I focus on moments of access and transition in a voluntary sector organisation in London: an intercultural psychotherapy centre, serving a range of im/migrant communities. Whilst both ‘belonging’ and ‘place’ are often invoked to imply stability, I explore how material contexts of access and inclusion can paradoxically be implicated in the ongoing production of precarity—of unstable, uncertain, and vulnerable ways of being. A sociomaterial analysis of ethnographic material and visual data from two creative mapping interviews attends to material and spatial aspects of the centre and its transitory place in the urban environment. It demonstrates how these aspects of place became entangled in client experiences of access: uncertainties of waiting, ambivalence towards belonging to a particular client group, and questions around deservingness of care. This engendered an embodied and situated experience of ‘precarious belonging’. I therefore argue that precarity should be ‘placed’, both within the concept of embodied belonging, and ethnographically, within the material constraints, impermanence, and spatial politics of projects to include the excluded in UK mental health care.