Poverty is a relative concept that is most meaningful within the context of social inequality in a particular culture. Among pastoralists in east Africa, often with mixed economies and herds that tend to fluctuate erratically over time, the problem of assessing poverty and wealth can be resolved by examining profiles of polygyny to provide a comparable index of wealth. Several profiles are examined in relation to a mathematical model based on the binomial series, with an emphasis on its social rather than mathematical implications. These series are especially apt because they closely follow the distribution of wives in a substantial sample of African societies, and they reveal different types of balances between competition and conformity associated with age and with status. The purpose of this essay is to redefine the problem of poverty in terms of the social profiles of inequality, leading toward a comparative analysis between cultures.
A problem of comparison
The ill-fitting pieces in the EU’s development partnerships
Riina Pilke and Marikki Stocchetti
English abstract: This article reviews the main policy guidelines set by the European Union (EU) for eradicating poverty and inequality in the context of its development cooperation partnerships. Drawing on the structure of the EU’s treaty, the EU’s official development policies since 2005, and the related European Commission documents over the past five years, it examines the conceptions of poverty and inequality and how the EU translates them into operational differentiation. The scope of the differentiated cooperation encompasses different types of developing countries, including a variety of both low-income countries (LICs) and middle-income countries (MICs). The article argues that differentiation poses a challenge to the EU’s internal development policy coherence. While the EU has adopted a multifaceted understanding of poverty, its conception of inequality is very narrow. In addition, the authors contend that the EU lacks clear criteria for differentiation in diverse country contexts in both regards.
Spanish abstract: El propósito de este trabajo es revisar los principales lineamientos de política pública establecidos por la Unión Europea (UE) para la erradicación de la pobreza y la desigualdad en el contexto de sus asociaciones de cooperación al desarrollo. Con base en la estructura de los tratados de la UE, las políticas oficiales de desarrollo de la UE desde 2005, y los documentos relacionados de la Comisión Europea en los últimos cinco años, este artículo examina las concepciones de pobreza y desigualdad así como la traducción sistemática que hace la UE de dichos conceptos en una diferenciación funcional en sus asociaciones de cooperación al desarrollo. El alcance de la cooperación diferenciada abarca diferentes tipos de países en desarrollo, incluyendo una variedad de países con bajos y medios ingresos (LIC y MIC por sus siglas en inglés). El artículo sostiene que la diferenciación plantea un desafío a la coherencia de la política pública de desarrollo al interior de la UE. Mientras que la UE ha adoptado una comprensión multifacética de la pobreza, su concepción de la desigualdad es muy estrecha. Además, las autoras argumentan que la UE carece de criterios claros para una diferenciación que tome en cuenta las dimensiones tanto de pobreza como de desigualdad en diversos contextos de países.
French abstract: L’objectif de ce texte consiste à passer en revue les principales lignes de politique publique de l’Union Européenne (UE) en matière de lutte contre la pauvreté et des inégalités dans le cadre de son partenariat de coopération pour le développement. A partir d’une révision des traités de l’UE, des politiques officielles de développement depuis 2005 et de documents de la Commission Européenne datant des cinq dernières années, l’article évoque les conceptions de la pauvreté et des inégalités et comment l’UE les traduit par une différenciacion opérative en matière de coopération pour le développement. La portée de la coopération differenciée inclut différents types de pays en développement, y compris divers pays à revenus bas et intermédiaires. Cet article défend l’idée que la différentiation présente un défi pour la cohérence de la politique de développement au sein de l’UE. Alors que celle-ci a adopté un point de vue multifacétique de la pauvreté, sa conception des inégalités est extrêmement limitée. Ainsi, les auteures affirment que l’UE manque de critères clairs pour établir une différenciation qui prenne en compte à la fois les dimensions de la pauvreté et les inégalités dans les différents contextes nationaux.
International migration in the contemporary era of globalization generates complex inequalities that require a non-statist approach to justice. This paper considers how the analysis of these inequalities may be fruitfully undertaken using Nancy Fraser’s framework of redistribution, recognition, and representation. The discussion uses empirical material from a case study of Ethiopian women who migrate as domestic workers to countries in the Middle East. The paper suggests potential directions for more transformative approaches to justice within the context of international migration.
Ethnographies of affirmative action
Alpa Shah and Sara Shneiderman
This is the introduction to a special section of Focaal that includes seven articles on the anthropology of affirmative action in South Asia. The section promotes the sustained, critical ethnographic analysis of affirmative action measures adopted to combat historical inequalities around the world. Turning our attention to the social field of affirmative action opens up new fronts in the anthropological effort to understand the state by carefully engaging the relationship between the formation and effects of policies for differentiated citizenship. We explore this relationship in the historical and contemporary context of South Asia, notably India and Nepal. We argue that affirmative action policies always transform society, but not always as expected. The relationship between political and socioeconomic inequality can be contradictory. Socioeconomic inequalities may persist or be refigured in new terms, as policies of affirmative action and their experiential effects are intimately linked to broader processes of economic liberalization and political transformation.
The main ideas of Rousseau relevant to social quality are reviewed here with reference to many of his books and essays. A central theme in Rousseau's work is connected to the evils of inequality where the poor endure their servitude in the name of an illusory common good. The social problem of inequality relates to the political problem of freedom. The social contract requires that the gap between rich and poor be as small as possible; that there is aristocratic government; and that 'the general will' combines the requirement for community with respect for individuality. The article finishes with a discussion of spatial aspects of Rousseau's work relevant to social quality, including the notion of the garden city.
The size and dramatic impact of the large-scale mines of Melanesia make a useful case study of the effects of economic globalization on local communities, particularly in terms of poverty and inequality. In the context of debates concerning globalization and poverty, this article examines the processes around large-scale mining at both the national and local scales. It argues that the issue of scale is critical to discussions of the links between poverty and globalization, with no evidence that large-scale mining has reduced poverty at the national level in Papua New Guinea over the last thirty years. Evidence is given from the Porgera mine of the effects of mining development at the local scale, with absolute poverty down but inequality increasing. Ethnographic detail helps to situate these processes in the dynamics of the local society. It is these locally grounded attributes that account for the production of inequality far better than generalized accounts of the 'culture of globalization'.
Citizens increasingly engage with political issues in new ways by addressing politicians via social media, campaigning at international forums, or boycotting corporate entities. These forms of engagement move beyond more regulated electoral politics and are rightly celebrated for the ways they increase representation and provide new channels of accountability. Yet, despite these virtues, political engagement beyond voting inevitably tends to entrench and amplify inequality in citizen influence on political decision-making. The tendency toward inequality undermines relational equality between citizens and muddies the channels of political accountability and responsibility. This article unpacks the ostensible tension and argues that it reveals to us another strength in views which hold the state to be citizens’ collective project and provides argumentative resources to motivate democracies to give due attention to ensuring that democratic participatory channels remain fit for purpose in an ever-changing society.
Perspectives on the rise of the far-right and right-wing populism in the West
Sindre Bangstad, Bjørn Enge Bertelsen and Heiko Henkel
This article is based on the transcript of a roundtable on the rise of the far-right and right-wing populism held at the AAA Annual Meeting in 2017. The contributors explore this rise in the context of the role of affect in politics, rising socio-economic inequalities, racism and neoliberalism, and with reference to their own ethnographic research on these phenomena in Germany, Poland, Italy, France, the UK and Hungary.
Challenges, Obstacles, and Possibilities
Nohad ‘Ali and Rima’a Da’as
The notion of having an Arab university in the State of Israel is exceedingly controversial, but also of great value and political and cultural significance. Can such a dream become a reality in a state that defines itself as Jewish, as well as democratic? This article discusses the vision of establishing an Arab university, including the previous attempts to establish one, the barriers and obstacles encountered, the reality of inequality of academic rights, and how this dream might actually be brought to fruition. The creation of an Arab university could represent an important step in serving the needs of Israel’s Arab citizens, promoting their status in the state, and protecting their identity, culture, and even existence.
Dilemmas of, and concerning, US anthropology in the world
Virginia R. Dominguez
Paradoxes shape the relationship of the US anthropological community to its counterparts elsewhere and require new thinking about leadership that focuses on mutuality, responsibility, reciprocity, and pragmatism. Explored here are some key contradictions I see in ways of looking at the current, past, or plausible role of the US anthropological community and, in particular, the American Anthropological Association and its nearly forty Sections. Marked inequality exists among national and international anthropological organizations in size, finances, journal production, and conference attendance and often in perceived degree of importance, control, vibrancy, or agenda-setting. Yet this intervention argues for ways to mitigate that marked inequality, nonetheless, by refusing a binary us-them conceptualization and emphasizing creative pragmatism, mutuality, and responsibility. Unconventionally it even asks whether US anthropology should lead more in the world of anthropology than it currently does or lead less, and why both are worth exploring.