Evolving humanity, emerging worlds

Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013

(G10)

Comparing urban poverty from an ethnographic perspective

Location Roscoe 1.003
Date and Start Time 08 Aug, 2013 at 09:00

Convenors

Mariano Perelman (Universidad de Buenos Aires- CONICET) email
Maria Mercedes Di Virgilio (CONICET) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The session invites researchers to submit papers that address forms of urban poverty from an ethnographic approach

Long Abstract

During the last few decades urban poverty has grown in many areas of the world's large cities. The growth of cities and of urban poverty and the emergence of new social and cultural inequalities turn the debate about the struggles, conditions, practices and ways of life of large sectors in mega, medium sized and small cities, as well as in liminality borders between urbanity and new ways of rurality, into one of unusual (important) relevance. In cities with growing diversity and heterogeneous ethnic, cultural and social plurality, this increase raises a number of additional problems to the pauperization processes, such as access to public transport, housing, urban land, cultural and social services, etc. The session invites researchers to submit papers that, from an ethnographic approach, address forms of urban poverty and also those that problematize on the debate about the selection of objects and fields of research as well as the relationship between the researcher and the subjects and issues that are the object of study - such as the relationship between urban and rural ways of life, access to urban land, urban violence and urban poverty, among others. Works that analyze with an ethnographic approach the ways in which poverty and inequality are expressed and experienced in different cities will be particularly welcome.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Poverty and the Pathologies of Privilege: Reflections on Fieldwork among the Poor and Vulnerable in the US

Author: Alisse Waterston (John Jay College, City University of New York)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

A retrospective look at ethnographic research on urban US poverty, homelessness, and political economy over several decades to assess what is old and new in the social circumstances, ideological constructions and social-structural positions of so-called deviant, marginalized, outcast groups.

Long Abstract

Zygmunt Bauman notes that "modernity" is implicated in the production of "wasted lives"—society's outcasts. "Modernity's global triumph" means that more people face the specter of being superfluous, redundant, even aberrant at the same time as the "extra-legal"—all that is illegal, illicit, informal, and unregulated—becomes the global norm. With a nod to anthropologist Paul Farmer (The Pathologies of Power), and Paul Rabinow (Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco), I reflect on changes and continuities in life experiences of society's outcasts as Neoliberalism extends its political and economic global reach politically. Neoliberalism's unregulated, free market advances private enterprise and consumer choice, making a few people extremely wealthy, providing them near-complete freedom, while leaving many others in utter destitution, despair, and oftentimes imprisoned—literally and figuratively. As privatization and a particular form of individual liberty have dominated in principle and in practice, the state as provider of collective goods and protector of collective interest has lost sway. Keeping these conditions in mind, I seek to comprehend the life experiences of the urban poor in the US. Taking a retrospective look at my ethnographic research on poverty, homelessness, displacement and the street drug economy over the past several decades, I assess what is old and what is new in the social circumstances, ideological constructions and social-structural positions of so-called deviant, marginalized, outcast groups. By unraveling the local aftermaths of Neoliberalism and considering the human costs that lie in its wake, my conclusions may have far-reaching implications for social justice, theory and policy.

Social and Economic Strategies to overcome rampant poverty among south Asian ethnic enclaves in Catalonia. Ethnographic fieldwork accounts on evasive communities.

Authors: Hugo Valenzuela Garcia (Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona)  email
Berta Güell (University of Barcelona)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

Poverty effects are being particularly virulent among immigrant communities in Spain. Ethnic enclaves are strategies to overcome both the effects of poverty and labor marginalization among south Asian communities. However, access to these realities are difficult to attain due to a constant feeling of mistrust, which in turn may be also explained through ethnographic insights.

Long Abstract

Poverty effects are being particularly pervasive among immigrant communities in Spain. Self-employment, ethnic entrepreneurship or the creation of enclaves are strategies widely employed to overcome marginalization in the main urban labor market.

This contribution is based on ethnographic research on two South Asian urban ethnic enclaves (Portes et al, 1985) located in Catalonia: on the one hand, the Muslim Pakistani community, with a long tradition of trade in the old center of Barcelona. On the other hand, the Indian community settled in coastal and touristic destinations in Girona, specialised in the souvenirs trade sector. Both groups have been more resistant to the ravages of the economic crisis than other immigrant groups, although poverty has been also noticed. This is due to particular social, ethnic and economic strategies employed, which provide them with a higher competitive advantage and resistance in a highly competive trade market. Both communities share similar strategies and register similar high economic success rates, though internally present crucial differences in terms of religion, geograhic origin, social organization or class/socioeconomic background.

Ethnographic approach to both South Asian communities, however, has been revealed particularly difficult for local ethnographers: feelings of suspicion, mistrust and disavowal are not uncommon towards the strange. Deeper ethnographic analysis focusing on local context, Diasporic past, Islamophobia and increasing police surveillance open up new ethnograhic insights.

This paper will address the local context of both communities, exposing and comparing their main socio-economic and cultural traits, and will address the difficulties, limitations and specificities of the ethnographic encounter.

Pobreza, desigualdad y escolarización infantil en una ciudad intermedia del sur santafesino (Argentina)

Author: Francisco Javier Bonis (Universidad Nacional De Rosario)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

Esta investigación socio-antropológica desarrollada en la localidad de Casilda, Santa Fe, Argentina, analiza la repercusión del proceso de empobrecimiento de una parte de la sociedad en las últimas décadas sobre la escolarización de los niños/jóvenes.

Long Abstract

El presente trabajo es parte de una investigación socioantropológica desarrollada en la localidad de Casilda, Santa Fe, Argentina, que analiza la repercusión del proceso de empobrecimiento de una parte de la sociedad en las últimas décadas sobre la escolarización de los niños/jóvenes de entre 6 y 13 años.

Dicha localidad tiene la particularidad de encontrarse en el corazón de la zona agroproductiva más importante del país la cual -de la mano de cambios acontecidos en los procesos productivos desarrollados durante los últimos años y de las políticas económicas, tecnológicas y sociales adoptadas por los gobiernos nacionales-, ha sido parte de lo que se conoce como el "boom sojero". Dicho proceso ha permitido un importante crecimiento de la economía tanto del país como de la zona en la cual se desarrolla este estudio, sin embargo esto no impidió que una parte importante de la sociedad casildense se encuentre por debajo de la línea de pobreza, viéndose imposibilitado del acceso a viviendas dignas, trabajos permanentes y debidamente remunerados.

De este modo, se indagará acerca de las posibilidades que tienen los niños que pertenecen a estos grupos familiares de acceder a los niveles mínimos de escolarización que exigen los organismos estatales y las particularidades que adquieren sus experiencias formativas escolares en este contexto socio-urbano complejo

Download PDF of paper

Disadvantages, opportunities and aspirations: trajectories of poverty in the periphery of Mexico City

Author: María Cristina Bayón (National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM))  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

From a perspective that emphasizes poverty as dynamic and socially constructed, this paper focuses on the biographical experiences of residents in one of the most disadvantaged peripheral areas in Mexico’s city. Deprivation is problematized and experienced according to the various representations of poverty.

Long Abstract

In recent decades, various processes and transformations in Latin American cities have made poverty a more complex, harsh, and exclusive experience. Cities have become an increasingly hostile environment for the urban poor. A more rigid social structure, less and worse job opportunities for less educated workers, a greater spatial concentration of poverty and disadvantages, together with a deepening segmentation in the quality and access to social services and the widening gaps in life chances between the have and have not, have increasingly blocked the possibilities of disadvantaged groups to overcome deprivation.

Against this background, and from a perspective that emphasizes poverty as dynamic and socially constructed, this paper focuses on the biographical experiences of residents of one of the most disadvantaged peripheral areas in Mexico's city. Starting at parental household context and childhood experiences, the analysis focuses on school, work, family, migration and housing trajectories, exploring cumulative disadvantages during the life course as well as possible tensions between opportunities and expectations, experiences and poverty discourses. Seeking to move beyond the description of life conditions of disadvantaged groups, the key question is to explore the particular ways in which these conditions are problematized and experienced according to the various representations of poverty. The sociobiographical method provides a sharper understanding of how individual stories are related to social structures and cultural contexts, and the possible tensions and resistance around the hegemonic discourses on poverty.

Transnational connections and socio-spatial configurations in the (re) production of inequalities in Latin American cities (1975-2010)

Author: Ramiro Segura (IDAES/UNSAM - CONICET)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

The article analyzes the links between transnational connections and socio-spatial configurations in the processes of production and reproduction of inequality in Latin American cities since the mid 1970's to present, from the comparative analysis of available research on the subject in Argentina , Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

Long Abstract

The paper summarizes results of the postdoctoral research project conducted in the framework of the Network for the Study of Interdependent Inequalities based on the Frei Universität Berlin.

The city is an ideal place to reflect on the theoretical debates on global entanglements and social inequalities. The starting point is to recognize the city as an open system node in a network of flows and connections of multiple scales and variables that impact on the "socio-spatial configuration" of cities, (re) produce inequalities. The city as a setting where actors are intertwined, processes and different scales, and the city as the product of these entanglements that are changing dramatically in many cases, the extent, composition and dynamics of urban space transformations referred with terms as diverse as duality, fragmentation, segregation, marginalization and even exclusion.

In the specific case of Latin America since the mid 1970's certainly contradictory and ambivalent processes such as globalization, neoliberalism and democratization, each with its own temporalities and significant changes in each country, are changing both the place of Cities in society and socio-spatial configurations of each of the cities.

Through a comparative perspective, the article analyzes the links between transnational connections and socio-spatial configurations in the processes of production and reproduction of Inequality in Latin American cities since the mid 1970's to present, from the analysis of available research on the subject in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

Marginal experiences of homelessness

Author: Pierre-Andre Tremblay (University of Quebec at Chicoutimi)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This paper presents the diffrerent experiences of homeless men and women in a peripheral region of Québec. It shows how gender and spatial anchoring influence these experiences and considers how social policies take gender and location into account.

Long Abstract

In North America, homeless people are generally discussed as a metropolitan phenomenon. This paper is interested in this question in the context of a "peripheral" area of Quebec and considers homeless people in a middle-sized city and those in rural areas. It emphasizes the different experiences of men and women. It will show how gender differently frames the lives of homeless people and how national public health policies suceed (or not) in taking into account gender and the spatiality of the experience of homelessness. The data comes from field observations and interviews with forty homeless persons and fifteen social service workers from Quebec.

Download PDF of paper

El acceso de los pobres urbanos a la ciudad. Reflexiones a partir de Buenos Aires

Authors: Mariano Perelman (Universidad de Buenos Aires- CONICET)  email
Maria Mercedes Di Virgilio (CONICET)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

A partir de indagar en las relaciones que se producen entre diferentes actores y agentes en distintos barrios de la ciudad, la presente ponencia propone dar cuenta del modo en que los pobres pugnan por el uso del espacio urbano de la ciudad.

Se propone un enfoque relacional para comprender la construcción de la pobreza y de la desigualdad social.

Long Abstract

A partir de indagar en las relaciones que se producen entre diferentes actores y agentes en distintos barrios de la ciudad, la presente ponencia propone dar cuenta del modo en que los pobres pugnan por el uso del espacio urbano de la ciudad.

Se propone un enfoque relacional para comprender la construcción de la pobreza y de la desigualdad social.

Black youth cultural groups and their role in the construction of places in Salvador, Bahia

Authors: Maria Gabriela Hita (Federal University of Bahia)  email
Umeru Azevedo  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

We analyse ethnographically ways in which cultural groups of young black people in Salvador, an afro-descendent metropolis, make use of and travel inside the city, and how they negotiate their right to the city from below through different forms of political, economic and cultural participation.

Long Abstract

We analyse ethnographically ways in which cultural groups of young black people in Salvador, an afro-descendent metropolis, make use of and travel inside the city, and how they negotiate their right to the city from below through different forms of political, economic and cultural participation.

Through an analysis of Social Networks inspired by the classical urban anthropology studies of the Manchester School and other approaches to an Anthropology of Mobility, we argue that studying and describing their movements and diverse kind of connections in their neighborhood, city, country and world outside, is the best way of reveal to us how they are constructing their own social space (and influencing the construction of social space in other parts of the city). In other words, when they are traveling, from one place to another, one institution to another, these young people are connecting different spheres of power, local and international social networks, in the artistic, cultural or political spheres in which they move, and participating actively in the development of urban life in ways that are obscured by models of the social lives of the poor that focus simply on segregation and social exclusion.

Transforming maternity along the fomalization process of urban wastepickers in Buenos Aires

Author: Henrike Neuhaus (FU Berlin)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

The Paper analyses transforming practices of motherhood and working as wastepicker in Buenos Aires along the process of formalization. The results are based on an anthropological fieldwork within a cooperative group of urban ragpickers.

Long Abstract

Due to the economic crisis in Argentina increased the figure of people who are collecting informally recyclable material in Buenos Aires. This growing phenomenon elicited the formation of groups pushing forward negotiations with the government to formalize waste-picking by cooperativization, which includes a struggle for more securities and social services. During my fieldwork I noticed that a large figure of young women, mostly mothers, joined the cooperative to work there regularly. So arose the question - does the cooperativization mean to the women to declare the right of child care, hoping to give their children more prospects for the future? At least practices of bringing the children to the city and growing them on the streets is also forced by law to change. So the children are protected from urban violence and the ability of child care in educational institutions diminishes some inequalities of opportunities.

The paper is analysing anthropological research material that was collected during fieldwork with a group of urban wastepickers in Buenos Aires, focusing on the aspect of transforming practices of motherhood and being a worker. The empirical data indicate that cooperativization can be considered as a strategy, specially of women, to agitate against the situation of poverty and vulnerability.

Urban Poverty and Social Exclusion: An Ethnographic Study of Kolkata and Adelaide

Author: Rabindranath Bhattacharyya (The University of Burdwan)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This paper is an attempt to identify the differences in the causes of urban poverty, the nature of social exclusion due to that poverty and the responses from the state to alleviate that poverty in the cities of Adelaide and Kolkata and to assess that on a comparative perspective.

Long Abstract

Despite the sincerest attempt, it is very difficult to measure the actual dimension of poverty in any country. This is so because of a growing consensus that the poverty indexes are not only many like income,¬¬ capability, human goals on life style and so on, but also important is "the choice of space and that of measure (which) tallies with motivation that makes us interested in evaluating inequality and poverty in the first place" (Sen, 2006, pp. 32 - 33). Nevertheless the fact remains that urban poverty remains high both in developed as well as undeveloped countries. But the causes of that urban poverty, the nature of social exclusion and the responses from the state to alleviate that poverty, differ from developed countries to developing ones. For example, even when migration remains the cause of urban poverty, the causes of migration to the cities differ substantially. This paper is an attempt to identify those points from a comparative perspective on the basis of the ethnographic study of the urban poor of Playford and Salisbury in Adelaide, made during the Endeavour Post Doctoral research [26.10.2009 - 25.02.2010] and that in Kolkata being done currently. The target group of the study in Kolkata is slum-dwellers of Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

This congress is sponsored by:

Wenner-Gren logo