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Girls in Transition

Negotiating, Constructing and Re-constructing Girlhood after the “Fall” in Rural Kenya

Christine Oduor-Ombaka

This article discusses problems of childbearing as experienced in rural Kenya by girls in their adolescence—a powerfully formative time of transition to adulthood. Findings reveal that girls face unique challenges and harsh choices when they are faced with pre-marital pregnancy such as emotional violence and abuse, early marriage, expulsion from school, unsafe abortion and poverty. Many Kenyans are calling on the government and communities to put into place policies and programs necessary for empowering girls with enough information to make a healthy and safe transition to adulthood.

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Holding Up Half the Sky

Global Narratives of Girls at Risk and Celebrity Philanthropy

Angharad Valdivia

In this article I explore the Half the Sky (HTS) phenomenon, including the documentary shown on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) network in 2014. I explore how the girls in whose name the HTS movement exists are represented in relation to Nicholas Kristoff and six celebrity advocates. This analysis foregrounds Global North philanthropy’s discursive use of Global South girls to advance a neoliberal approach that ignores structural forces that account for Global South poverty. The upbeat use of the concept of opportunities interpellates the audience into participating in individualized approaches to rescuing girls. Ultimately girls are spoken for while celebrities gain more exposure and therefore increase their brand recognition.

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Pentecostal Networks and the Spirit of Globalization

On the Social Productivity of Ritual Forms

Joel Robbins

Pentecostal Christianity has in the last several decades demonstrated an ability to globalize with great speed and to flourish in social contexts of poverty and disorganization in which other social institutions have been unable to sustain themselves. This article asks why Pentecostalism should be so successful at institution building in harsh environments. I argue that this question is more fundamental than those scholars more often ask about the kinds of compensations that Pentecostalism provides for its adherents. I then draw on Collins's theory of interaction ritual chains to suggest that it is Pentecostalism's promotion of ritual to the center of social life that grounds its unusual institution-building capacity.

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The contributions to this issue of Theoria both revisit some of the themes that have come to shape the journal as an editorial project and invitingly open up new areas of enquiry and debate. Thus the challenges posed by poverty on a global scale, the problems of inequality and distributive justice, the legacy of the failure of socialism in Eastern Europe and aspects of the ‘postmodern moment’ in late twentieth century thought are, once again, challengingly engaged with. At the same time new agendas for research and theoretical reflection are identified.

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The 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris (COP21), December 2015, reached a consensus to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, including by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” (UN 2015: 22). The agreement has to pave the way for rules, modalities, and procedures and all Parties have to “recognize the importance of integrated, holistic and balanced non-market approaches being available to Parties to assist in the implementation of their nationally determined contribution, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, in a coordinated and effective manner, including through, inter alia, mitigation adaptation, finance, technology transfer and capacity building, as appropriate” (UN 2015: 24). Of interest to note is that sustainable development and poverty eradication seem to be presented as two sides of the same coin.

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Theatres of virtue

Collaboration, consensus, and the social life of corporate social responsibility

Dinah Rajak

In recent years transnational corporations have become major players in the development arena. The rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR) elevates corporations as leaders in a new orthodoxy of business-led development that promotes empowerment through “the market” as the panacea for global poverty. This vision has recruited support from disparate actors, turning combatants into collaborators. This article is based on thirteen months of multisited fieldwork, tracking the performance of CSR through the circuit of conventions and policy forums that constitute the social life of CSR. I argue that by claiming the confluence of doing good business and doing good, commitment to the market logic of maximisation is not only maintained, but endowed with a moral legitimacy and celebrated as the elusive win-win solution for which the development industry continues to search.

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Policing production

Corporate governmentality and the Cultivation System

Albert Schrauwers

This article reexamines the Cultivation System in early nineteenth-century Java as part of an assemblage of Crown strategies, programs, and technologies to manage the economy—and more particularly, “police” the paupers—of the “greater Netherlands.” This article looks at the integrated global commodity chains within which the System was embedded, and the common governmental strategies adopted by the Dutch Crown to manage these flows in both metropole and colony. It focuses on the role of an early corporation, the Netherlands Trading Company, that also served as the administrator of poverty-relief efforts in the Eastern Netherlands where cotton cloth was produced. The article argues that corporate governmentality arose as a purposive strategy of avoiding liberal parliamentary scrutiny and bolstering the “enlightened absolutism” of the Crown. By withdrawing responsibility for the policing of paupers from the state, and vesting it in corporations, the Crown commercialized the delivery of pauper relief and reduced state expenditure, while still generating large profits.

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The Vanishing Power Plant

Infrastructure and Ignorance in Peri-urban Ulaanbaatar

Morten Axel Pedersen

In a neglected corner of peri-urban Ulaanbaatar’s sprawling post-socialist slums, the livelihood of dozens of households has over recent years been affected by a large infrastructure project that will never be built. ‘Power Plant #5’ was originally tendered to a Chinese construction firm in 2008 as part of a national strategy to develop Mongolia’s energy production to meet new needs. Taking its departure in the story of a poverty-stricken woman long employed as a caretaker by a mysterious organization allegedly in charge of Power Plant #5, this article explores the peculiar dynamics by which lacking knowledge about this and other infrastructural projects in contemporary Mongolia feeds into dispossessed people’s dreams about and plans for the future. Indeed, it suggests that ignorance itself may be conceived of as an infrastructure in its own right, insofar as it constitutes a ground from which certainty as well as uncertainty emerge.

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Paying the Price of War

Narratives of Trauma of Iraqi Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Jordan

Laure Bjawi-Levine

The occupation of Iraq and the ensuing sectarian violence have created an Iraqi refugee community, estimated at 700,000 to 1 million, which Jordan has hosted for several years. Residing for the most part in Amman's low-rent neighbourhoods, many Iraqis have overstayed their visas and live in fear of deportation. Marginalised both economically and socially, and forgotten by the U.S. and the international community, poverty-stricken Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers suffer not only from the traumatic experience of sectarian persecution and their escape from Iraq, but also from the stress and fatigue of their long-lasting transit to nowhere. Their narratives show a profound distress and a struggle for survival that is both psychological and economical, since their (il)legal status as 'guests' denies them the possibility of obtaining work permits.

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The Reshaping of Cairo's City of the Dead

Rural Identity versus Urban Arena in Cairene Cultural Narrative and Public Discourse

Anna Tozzi Di Marco

Cairo's City of the Dead embodies the social and cultural stratification that has occurred over the course of Egyptian history. Nowadays, its syncretic culture is a mixture of urban and rural aspects - a 'rurban' culture. In an effort to escape from the poverty of their hamlets, rural migrants started to move to the capital during the last decades of Ottoman rule, ending up in the fringe zones of the city. During the second wave of migration in the twentieth century, the poorest segments illicitly occupied abandoned or rarely visited funeral courtyards. The article explores how this district has been restructured by the occupation. It analyses the meaning of the physical and cultural transformations of funerary spaces, as well as the migrants' role in the formation of the locality.