Adopting a qualitative anthropological approach, this report discusses and critiques dominant theoretical currents in the study of poverty and presents a more qualitative analysis of the topic. Through an examination of rural Jordan, new sets of concepts and calculations on poverty - both qualitative and quantitative - have been forged. The research indicates that poverty, as an economic fact, can easily be manipulated and treated as a numerical game. As a social fact, poverty is seen in terms of complex coping strategies that are managed within a framework of social norms.
Assessment and Characterisation
Mohamed Tarawneh and Abdel Hakim Al Husban
John R. Campbell
This article explores the relation between theory and method in three methodologically innovative studies of rural poverty. The issue is pertinent because the nature of research on poverty has shifted from small-scale qualitative studies to large surveys, and to national-scale studies that combine qualitative and quantitative methods in an effort to inform policy makers on appropriate poverty reduction strategies. The interest in combined methods holds considerable promise for poverty research because it links a search for 'objective' economic concerns to the analysis of 'subjective' and context-specific issues. It is instructive to examine recent studies of poverty that have pursued different theoretical and methodological choices with a view to understand how 'theory' influenced methodological choices, and whether and how such choices influenced their understanding of poverty.
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'.
Xu Yanhui and Gong Ziyu
Poverty is generally viewed in traditional understandings as merely lowness of income, so its noneconomic aspects and dynamic characteristics are neglected. Conversely, Amartya Sen has argued that poverty must be seen as the deprivation of basic capabilities—the substantive freedoms a person enjoys to lead the kind of life they have reason to value. Based on Sen’s capability poverty theory, this article examines the influence of social quality and community capacity on Chinese urban residents’ capability poverty. The social quality perspective assesses societal progress and refers to four conditional factors: socioeconomic security, social inclusion, social cohesion, and social empowerment. Our data analysis from a survey undertaken in Shenzhen indicates that socioeconomic security, social cohesion, and social empowerment can effectively alleviate capability poverty. Community capacity was also an influential factor for capability poverty of urban residents. According to these findings, future anti-poverty projects should focus on improving social quality and community capacity.
Interactional Impacts on Claimants of Chinese Dibao
Jian Chen and Lichao Yang
The Chinese minimum living standard guarantee (dibao), which has been in place since the 1990s, is one of the most important social assistance programs run by the Chinese government. There is extensive literature on dibao, a majority of which deals with how it is allocated in rural communities and its effectiveness in alleviating rural poverty. Receiving dibao is often considered a sign of poverty. Scholars have long discussed the shame experienced by people in poverty. However, very few empirical studies have paid attention to the interplay between shame and dibao. This study draws on one month of qualitative fieldwork, focused on dibao implementation in both urban and rural China. It aims to understand how dibao and shame are connected in relation to three elements of policy provision: discretion, rights, and negotiation.
Convergent or divergent approaches and understandings of poverty? An introduction
John R. Campbell and Jeremy Holland
Is it possible or indeed desirable to combine qualitative, participatory and quantitative research methods and approaches to better understand poverty? This special section of Focaal seeks to explore a number of contentious, inter-related issues that arise from multimethod research that is driven by growing international policy concerns to reduce global poverty. We seek to initiate an interdisciplinary dialog about the limits of methodological integration by examining existing research practice to better understand the strengths and limitations of combining methods which derive from different epistemological premises. We ask how methods might be combined to better address issues of causality, and whether the concept of triangulation offers a possible way forward. In examining existing research we find little in the way of shared understanding about poverty and, due to the dominance of econometrics and its insistence on using household surveys, very little middle ground where other disciplines might collaborate to rethink key conceptual and methodological issues.
Barbara Demeyer and Fintan Farrell
This article contains the ‘European Anti-Poverty Network’ contribution to the European research- and Network-project on Indicators of Social Quality (ENIQ). It contains the following parts: after this introduction the European social inclusion strategy, one of the important policy frames for EAPN, will be discussed, followed by the translation of the European decisions on indicators (Laken 2002) by national governments up till now (National Action Plans 1+2) and the consequences for the praxis. The fourth section elaborates on the comments by the EAPN on these European based decisions and the nature of the following reflections within its own membership. The fifth section includes a presentation of research on qualitative indicators for poverty. The last section gives comments and conclusions by EAPN on the social quality approach.
Beyond Morality in the Anthropology of Africa?
The suggestion that the anthropological study of morality is theoretically undeveloped carries with it the risk of caricaturing ideas of moral obligation in mid-twentieth-century social anthropology. The need for recovering aspects of these ideas is demonstrated by the tendency of moral philosophers to reduce the issue of world poverty to a question of ethical choices and dilemmas. Examining the diplomatic tie that had existed for almost 42 years between Malawi and Taiwan and an ill-fated project of Taiwanese aid in rural Malawi, this article maintains that honoring obligations indicates neither a communitarian ethos nor rule-bound behavior. As the mid-twentieth-century anthropology of Africa theorized ethnographically, the moral and existential import of obligation lies in its contingent materiality rather than in social control. Such insights, the article concludes, can enrich debates on world poverty with alternative intellectual resources.
Currencies of Poverty in Post-Soviet Cuba
Based on ethnographic research in Havana over the past two decades, this article examines how Cubans’ experience of poverty, or ‘need’, is linked to the increasing dollarization of the Cuban economy. Dollars, I argue, are not just the emblem of a new moral disorder, but also its main catalyst, inasmuch as they expand the realm of ‘need’, as defined by a socialist paradigm of consumption rooted in the era before the introduction of the dollar, by stripping it of its (socialist) moral essence through acts of quantitative commensuration. This account of Cubans’ experience of poverty since the end of the Soviet era, I suggest, provides more general insights about the power of the money form itself as a catalyst of moral transformation.
A Symptom of Gender Inequality for Girls Living with Poverty
Zainul Sajan Virgi
Abject female intergenerational poverty is a systemic issue which denies girls the opportunity to access a higher quality of life because of poor health that results in under-development. The article focuses on the root cause-gender inequality-that is responsible for their inability to access adequate nutrition, particularly during their critical period of physical and intellectual growth and development. Their resulting sub-standard health has a bad impact on their school attendance. This article follows the lives of a group of ten girls between the ages of ten and fourteen years living in a peri-urban community outside Maputo. It outlines the importance of engaging girls, through participatory methodologies, and giving them the opportunity to express themselves, their challenges, strengths and ideas for possible resolution of the problem.