Inspired by the examples of Stewart (1996) and Weston (2009), this article is an experiment in narrative form. It portrays the 'cultural poetics' (Stewart 1996) of lives lived in and through experiences of poverty in contemporary London and considers the potential of long-term participant-observation fieldwork, and the development of relations of mutual obligation in the field, to create a collaborative anthropology de fined by a politics of mutually transformative action. The article enters into debate about the effects of changing structural inequalities, which differentially impact on the post-industrial urban neighbourhoods of the U.S.A., the U.K. and Europe (Waquant 2008; 2012). Waquant's work is taken to be a rallying cry for Europe and the U.K. to wake up from the American Dream of neo-liberalism. The 'utter desolation' (Waquant 2012: 66) of life in the worst of the U.S.A.'s post-industrial urban housing projects and, to an extent, in France, demands a reaction from and suggests (especially post-August 2011 riots), that the time is now to debate how to prevent further deterioration in British cities. The article should be read as two parts in conversation with each other. The first section is an experiment in narrative form and hence the reader is asked to bear with and consider the fruitfulness of the departure from conventional scholarly form. In the second part of the article academic insight is drawn out in more standardized form, with a more usual engagement with literature, highlighting of relevant points and movement towards the formation of argument.
A Family Portrait
Andrew Gamble and Rajiv Prabhakar
Asset egalitarianism is a new agenda but an old idea. At its root is the notion that every citizen should be able to have an individual property stake, and it has recently been revived in Britain and in the U.S. in a number of proposals aimed at countering the huge and growing inequality in the distribution of assets. Such asset egalitarianism is fed from many streams; it has a long history in civic republican thought, beginning with Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, but has also featured in the distributist theories of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc; the guild socialism of G.D.H. Cole and the ethical socialism of R.H. Tawney; the market liberalism of the Ordo Liberals and some of the Austrian School, particularly F.A. Hayek; and more recently the market socialism of James Meade, A.B. Atkinson and Julian Le Grand, and the market egalitarianism of Michael Sherraden, Samuel Bowles, Herbert Gintis, Richard Freeman and Bruce Ackerman. There are also important links to the proponents of a citizens’ income as a different approach to the welfare state (White 2002) as well as to the ideas of stakeholding (Dowding et al. 2003).
The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London
George Orwell is most widely known as the teller of dystopian tales of oppression. A closer look at his oeuvre reveals a courageous truth seeker who frequently lived and worked with his literary subjects. In his fieldwork he used the methods of classic ethnography including participant observation, semi-structured interviews and field notes. This article argues that Orwell was an ethnographer in his research methods and that both Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier are ethnographic texts with valuable insights into marginal groups in the early to mid-twentieth century in Europe. The writer’s clear-sighted and humane depiction of ‘otherness’ shows his skill as an ethnographer. His personal investment with his subject matter, reflexivity and attention to broader social and political phenomena in his narratives mark Orwell as an autoethnographer.
Do We Need a Mobility Bill of Rights?
This article argues for the establishment of a Mobility Bill of Rights. That the current car system is not sustainable in environmental terms has been much discussed in academic circles and is increasingly accepted in wider society, as reflected by governmental attempts at reform. The current trend for remodeling this car system largely involves the substitution of petrol/diesel for potentially more ecologically sound methods of powering the vehicles such as electricity. Attempts to reach environmental sustainability in this manner do little to impact social or economic sustainability and thus will fail to address the triple bottom line. Rather, reliance on automobiles in the present vein may continue trends for mobility-related exclusion. To tackle this, we need a debate on how the transport needs of ordinary people can be met.
E. P. Thompson's time-sense at the edges of Rio de Janeiro
Kathleen M. Millar
This article puts E. P. Thompson's writings on time-sense in conversation with the temporality of work on a garbage dump in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At this site, several thousand urban poor (catadores) collect recyclables for a living outside relations of wage labor. The lived experience of “woven time” on the dump, which combines labor with other activities of the everyday, has fashioned what these workers call “a different rhythm of life.” Diverging from other temporalities of neoliberal capitalism, such as “ruptured time,” woven time emerges as an important dimension of a life well lived, as conceived by catadores. Attention to the micro-temporalities of wageless work reveals how precarious forms of labor in contemporary capitalism constitute processes of subject making that both parallel and diverge from the transition to wage labor that Thompson describes in his social history of capitalism.
Mothers’ Reactions to Nutrition Programmes in Guatemala’s Dry Corridor
This article explores women’s reactions to public health nutrition work in Guatemala, looking specifically at multi-micronutrients, or sprinkles. This anthropological research was carried out in two rural communities in Chiquimula, one of which was in the Maya Ch’orti’ region, during the 2017 seasonal period of scarcity. Taking as a starting point the limitations of a medicalised approach to malnutrition, this article discusses how multi-micronutrients are ill-suited as a solution for child malnutrition in situations of precarity. Though they are designed to be physiologically effective in reducing nutrition deficiencies in the body, they appear less useful once socio-economic conditions are considered. Women’s experience with malnutrition emergencies will be explored to show how health decision-making must be understood in relation to their social context as well as to their expectations for the future.
Aki Siltaniemi and Marja-Liisa Kauppinen
The International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW), European Region, is, together with its academic partners, a member of the ENIQ Project. These academic bodies have developed and formulated the theory of social quality, together with appropriate indicators. The role of the ICSW differs from this because its purpose and basic mission is different. ICSW represents social NGOs and its mission is to advance social welfare, social justice and social development. The approach of the ICSW in this article is practical and clearly connected with social policy issues at an especially European level. However, a deep theoretical understanding of social quality and a successful choice of indicators are very important to the ICSW. After all, they do determine the usefulness of the image received through the concept of social quality in developing European welfare. The theory and indicators of social quality may also define which questions or problems will be primarily raised when discussing citizens’ welfare or its defects in European societies.
Towards a Multiverse of Transformations
Ananta Kumar Giri
Our understanding of the human and the social, as well as our realization of these, are in need of fundamental transformations, as our present day use of these are deeply anthropocentric, Eurocentric and dualistic. Human development discourse looks at the human in an adjectival way, so does the social quality approach to the category of the social: neither reflects the profound rethinking both the categories have gone through even in the Western theoretical imagination (for example, the critique of humanism in philosophy and the critique of socio-centrism in sociology). In this context, the present essay explores the ways these two categories are being rethought in Western theoretical imagination and discusses the non-anthropocentric and post-anthropocentric conceptualization and realization of the human, which resonates with non-socio-centric and post-social conceptions of society. The essay also opens these two categories to cross-cultural and planetary conversations and on the way rethinks subjectivity, sovereignty, temporality and spatiality. It pleads for a foundational rethinking of human security and social quality and for creative intertwining between the two with visions and practices of practical spirituality.
Negotiated Spaces in India’s School Meal Program
Sony Pellissery, Sattwick Dey Biaswas and Biju Abraham
In human rights literature, human dignity is the foundation of human rights. Thus, scholarly literature has focused on rights to further enchance dignity. In this article, we argue that rights alone provide only a minimum of dignity. We examine India’s right to food legislation and its implementation in school meal programs. Based on our observations, we argue that discretion and negotiation are complementary institutional spaces that can be developed for the meaningful enjoyment of rights and thus dignity. The negotiations that take place between school management committees and schoolteachers determine the dignity of the midday meal by improving meal quality and nutritional content, infrastructural facilities, and working arrangements for the cooking and delivery of meals. The findings are based on a study of four schools in the states of Kerala and West Bengal and on a review of studies on the midday meal programs in other Indian states.
Contentious Housing Practices in Contemporary South Africa
Kerry Ryan Chance
This article examines the informal housing practices that the urban poor use to construct, transform, and access citizenship in contemporary South Africa. Following the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, the provision of formalized housing for the urban poor has become a key metric for 'non-racial' political inclusion and the desegregation of apartheid cities. Yet, shack settlements—commemorated in liberation histories as apartheid-era battlegrounds—have been reclassified as 'slums', zones that are earmarked for clearance or development. Evictions from shack settlements to government emergency camps have been justified under the liberal logic of expanding housing rights tied to citizenship. I argue that the informal housing practices make visible the methods of managing 'slum' populations, as well as an emerging living politics in South African cities.