The special issue focuses on the impact of antipoverty measures—accounting for social and structural dimensions in the poverty experience and moving beyond an income-only focus—in five country cases: China, India, Norway, Uganda, and the United States. Particularly, we focus on the implications of shame in the delivery of antipoverty measures, as an individual and social phenomenon that relates to feelings of self-inadequacy, as well to a lack of dignity and recognition. We analyze delivery interactions through an analytic framework of rights, discretion and negotiation, as this enables us to parse out how policy delivery interactions presumed or enabled individual choice, ability, control, and voice. We suggest social citizenship can structure the relationships between welfare recipients and administrators. As a concept, it expands the objects of social rights beyond the materiality of human life (e.g., housing, pensions) to include intangible processual elements (e.g., dignity) in the construct of rights.
The Potential for Shaming and Dignity Building through Delivery Interactions
Erika Gubrium and Sony Pellissery
Encounters and Interactions within Two US Public Housing Programs
Erika Gubrium, Sabina Dhakal, Laura Sylvester and Aline Gubrium
We operationalize the concepts of rights, discretion, and negotiation in service provision at two public housing sites, exploring their connections to the generation of shame or dignity building for residents. Using data from in-depth interviews with housing residents and caseworkers, we found that resident rights were limited by a decentralized system that actively prevented them from taking control of their lives. Residents frequently experienced caseworker discretion as personally intrusive, yet there was some, if limited, space for negotiation between caseworkers offering personalized care and residents evaluated as worthy of such focus. These interactions offered the potential for enhanced recognition and dignity.
This issue is dedicated to the outcomes of the research project “Poverty and Shame: Perspectives and Practices Concerning Anti-poverty Measures in a Global Context” and funded by the Research Council of Norway. Erika Gubrium and Sony Pellissery, partners on the project, present a series of articles with emergent findings from five cases of service provision interactions between antipoverty measure providers and recipients, namely in China, India, Norway, Uganda, and the United States. The project focused on professional practices at the level of everyday interaction and the impact of service delivery on those receiving antipoverty measures. The article authors are especially focused on two issues: first, if antipoverty measures cause deep feelings of shame or may be “shame proofed,” and second, if they mitigate or stimulate feelings of dignity.
The Senior Citizen’s Grant in Uganda
Grace Bantebya Kyomuhendo
Although development policy approaches in Uganda and elsewhere have changed over time, many of them share a failure to consider and respond to the potential for shaming, given the persistent presence of social norms and practices shaped by poverty. Research evidence of the lived experiences and practices of the providers and beneficiaries of the Senior Citizens’ Grant (SCG) antipoverty measure had spaces and a process of dignity building and shaming. The overriding policy implication that antipoverty policymakers need to be aware of is that antipoverty policies that create spaces for poverty shaming are counterproductive and less than optimally effective in achieving antipoverty objectives than policies that impart a sense of dignity in the participants. The latter kind of policies has a greater capacity to deliver on antipoverty objectives by recognizing the participants’ rights and promoting their human dignity, equitable participation, social inclusion, political voice, and individual or collective agency.