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Antipoverty Measures

The Potential for Shaming and Dignity Building through Delivery Interactions

Erika Gubrium and Sony Pellissery

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.

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Sisphyean Struggles

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.

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Indignity in Cash Transfers

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.

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The Empire of Law

Dignity, Prestige, and Domination in the “Colonial Situation”

Emmanuelle Saada

My contribution is an attempt to resolve one of those enigmas that the French colonial archives hold for assiduous readers. In the course of comparative research on the juridical status of métis children in the French Empire,1 I was struck by the frequency with which the terms “dignity” and “prestige” figured in a wide range of colonial preoccupations—whether on the part of local or central administrations, private individuals or institutions. These were not merely personal or social qualities, but terms that had precise legal meanings and that played a central role in colonial jurisprudence. In this context, the terms were predominantly used in the negative—referring to threats to prestige (atteintes au prestige) or to the obligation to maintain one’s dignity (garder sa dignité).

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Building Dignity?

Tracing Rights, Discretion, and Negotiation within a Norwegian Labor Activation Program

Erika Gubrium, Leah Johnstone and Ivar Lødemel

Within a Norwegian labor activation program for social assistance, we explore how the presence of a work-oriented ethos shapes and changes the balance of rights, discretion, and negotiation available to and marking the interactions between service providers and program participants. We trace connections between changed delivery interactions and heightened shame or enhanced dignity for participants. Two themes emerge, the first related to an imagined institutional trajectory of progress attached to labor activation in which participants were offered “more” and the second to whether participants and caseworkers had a meaningful voice in co-negotiating the terms of activation. Unrealistic optimism and an institutional focus placed on individual participants’ new responsibilities fueled a longer-term negative impact. Descriptions of enhanced rights, new possibilities for negotiation, and reported feelings of shame and frustration depended both on the participant’s distance to the labor market and on the point at which respondents were interviewed.

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Singing with Dignity

Adding Social Quality to Organization Studies on Aging

Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil

Scholars of organization studies are right to be concerned with the limited contributions the field has made to public policy despite the societal relevance of the insights it contains. The combination of bulkiness and of insulated pockets of specialization could help explain the relative isolation from policy making that tends to require a combination of speed and multifaceted application. The social quality (SQ) approach is simultaneously an analytical tool and a political project to secure dignity of precarious individuals. The multilevel framework adopted by SQ can effectively channel the wide range of contributions from organization studies in the service of public good. Using an ethnography of music lessons followed by older adults in a cultural institution facing imminent closure because of austerity measures, the article connects SQ work to contributions from organization theory, which can shed light on organizing principles critical to well-being of older persons.

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Dafna Halperin

This study aims to identify future care preferences and examine the associations between personal resources, filial expectations, and family relations and the preferences of independent elderly Jews and Arabs aged 65 and over, using mixed methods. Data were collected using structured interviews of 168 Jews and 175 Arabs; additionally, 20 Jews and Arabs were interviewed in depth to enable more detailed analysis. The main findings show the effects of the modernization and individualization processes on elder preferences. Significant differences were found between Jews and Arabs for most variables. Whereas Jews' first preference was formal care, with mixed care following as second, Arabs preferred mixed care to other types. Differences in several factors associated with preference for mixed care were also noted, including in categories that were identified in the qualitative phase, such as 'dignity' versus 'honor' and the meaning of 'home'.

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Bernard Matolino

In classical African communitarianism, individual rights have tended to be accorded a secondary status to the good of the community. What is prioritised are the duties and obligations the individual has to the whole as opposed to the entitlements one can expect to derive from a community qua individual. I seek to show that this view, by its own standards and assumptions, is erroneous in framing rights as secondary to the good of the community. I attempt to show that individual rights are an inherent component of classical African communitarian accounts. Further, I seek to argue for a non-communalist view of African communitarianism which takes into full account the multiple factors that constitute modern African communities. Such a view, I suggest, will avoid the unnecessary dichotomisation of rights which has become synonymous with the classical African communitarian account.

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Sociology in the Garden

Beyond the Liberal Grammar of Contemporary Sociology

Nissim Mizrachi

This article poses a simple question: why do marginalized Mizrahim, a group most likely to benefit from liberal justice and human rights, so vehemently and repeatedly reject the liberal message? To address this question, we shift the direction of inquiry from problems in the message’s transmission or reception to the message itself. By doing so, we seek to go beyond the ‘liberal grammar’ shared by most social activists and critical sociologists. The insight emerging from this theoretical turn is that the politics of universalism, rooted in the liberal grammar of human rights and viewed from the liberal standpoint as a key to social emancipation, is experienced by the target population as a heartless betrayal and a grave identity threat. This article offers the initial outline for a new interpretive space and seeks to surpass both the limits of the Israeli case and those of the liberal grammar of contemporary critical sociology.

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Derek Hook and Clifford L. Staples

Climate of Fear: The Quest for Dignity in a Dehumanized World (The BBC Reith Lectures) Derek Hook

Racism: A Short History Clifford L. Staples