Beyond Development: Local Visions of Global Poverty

Beyond Development: Local Visions of Global Poverty

In late 2016 the Poverty Research Network was awarded an exciting grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), to establish a Research Network for International Development. Beginning on 1 November 2016, the 24-month grant will internationalise the Poverty Research Network by holding workshop events at partner institutions in BangladeshBrazilMexicoSlovenia, and South Africa. These will explore how different narratives of poverty and poverty reduction have been conceptualised and articulated in specific countries, to deepen our understanding of the social and political construction of poverty. These narratives will then be disseminated back to academics, practitioners and policymakers in Britain through a concluding international conference, to be held at the University of Warwick in 2018.

The Network will produce a range of academic and non-academic outputs, to be disseminated through a range of channels. These will include a special issue peer-reviewed journal; a digital forum; a social media presence; and a public exhibition at the University of Warwick. A central aspect of this Network is to also disseminate research findings to international development practitioners and policymakers, in both the United Kingdom and in the five specific local contexts of ODA recipient nations. Within the United Kingdom, officials from DFID will participate in the concluding conference at the University of Warwick, which builds upon existing links between Warwick and DFID (established through Warwick’s ID GRP). Research findings will be disseminated through the conference discussions, the production of a set of policy recommendations, and the co-production of a policy paper with DFID officials.

The project ultimately aspires to increase our understanding of how local contexts shape development; strengthen the voices of developing countries in governance; and promote alternative visions of current policy as set out in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Aims and objectives

Rationale

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and accompanying SDGs have renewed international attention on combatting the root causes of global poverty. The SDGs have been depicted as a more inclusive and collaborative project than the preceding UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). there is also a deep sense of ambiguity and contradiction pervading the 2030 Agenda. Despite a rhetorical emphasis on the inclusion and participation of developing countries in tackling poverty, many of the SDGs are underpinned by a narrow conception of poverty, as defined in terms of economic growth and other statistical indicators, which has been embedded within the development industry since the early Cold War.

This research network is a direct challenge to this crisis in the theory and practice of international development, and broader problems with the narratives behind economic analysis of poverty at both the local and global levels. The recent success of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty First Century, the awarding of the Nobel prize in economics to Angus Deaton, and the success of a growing range of literature such as Anthony Atkinson’s Inequality, all indicate a growing awareness and interest in the intractable global problems of inequality and poverty, and the need to revise and rethink our understanding of these problems, their causes and possible solutions. This network builds on this, by capturing how poverty has been defined and narrated differently across a range of local contexts in ODA recipient nations; uncovering the different historical experiences of poverty in these localities; and investigating how these have in turn shaped different responses and solutions to poverty across the global South. In doing so, the Network harnesses the unique insights and methodologies of the arts and humanities (in particular a focus on causality, long-term processes of change and local experiences) to inject diversity into our understandings of global poverty (and its solutions), capture local lexicons, and co-ordinate a global awareness of different strategies and approaches to poverty. The Network not only aspires to help shift our perspectives of poor people as objects of policies to empowered actors, deconstructing historically embedded asymmetries of power, but to excavate the historic formulation of power asymmetries and to diversify the histories that represent global communities. In short, the Poverty Research Network is about uncovering the explanatory narratives behind the numbers.

Aims and objectives

1. To establish a transnational research community, promoted through a series of workshops in five carefully selected ODA recipient regions (Bangladesh, Brazil, the Indian Ocean World with an event in South Africa, Mexico, and Eastern Europe with an event in Slovenia), a major international concluding conference at the University of Warwick, and a dedicated project website.
2. Through this network, to investigate and document how different definitions and narratives of poverty and poverty reduction have been produced in specific localities across the developing world. This will provide people who have been the object of poverty discourses a voice and chance to share their experiences and ideas of solutions.
3. To harness the insights and methodologies of the arts and humanities, diversify the subjects and productions of history through engagement with the often silent majority of global communities, and initiate a change in narratives of poverty that have been created by economists and social scientists.
4. To bring these narratives and local knowledge into dialogue with contemporary international development policy and practice, through engagement with UK-based international development NGOs (Oxfam and Save the Children), and DFID.
5. To cross research boundaries, promoting collaboration and dialogue between disciplines, universities, research cultures, academic and non-academic stakeholders, policymakers, practitioners, and national contexts.
6. To disseminate research findings through academic publications, workshops, and the project website. This includes the production of a special edition of the peer-reviewed journal Social History. A provisional commitment to publish this special edition has been confirmed, which will be edited by the Principal Investigator and publish the findings and experiences of the Network.
7. To generate public awareness of the project's work through a range of channels, including a dedicated social media platform and online website and forum, a regularly updated online blog, a series of exhibitions to be held in tandem with the project partner workshops, and an exhibition to be held at the University of Warwick in conjunction with the concluding international conference.


Impact

Beyond Development: Pathways to Impact

This proposal will create a global network with local nodes across five ODA recipient regions (Bangladesh, Brazil, the Indian Ocean World with an event in South Africa, Mexico, and Eastern Europe with an event in Slovenia). The over-arching objective is to understand and interrogate the pluralities of perceptions, experiences, narratives, histories and customs regarding poverty around the developing world, and the different approaches to poverty and its alleviation. The Network therefore overtly establishes a dialogue between different localities, across different academic disciplines (with a clear emphasis on the humanities and social sciences), and between academic researchers and non-academic actors and practitioners. Most importantly of all, the network seeks to include and empower poor people themselves, who have conventionally been perceived only as the objects of pre-existing discourses. Consequently, there are a wide range of potential pathways to impact, which are discussed below.

Crossing Boundaries
Through a series of events in five ODA recipient nations, the Poverty Research Network will overtly connect academic researchers with non-academic civil society actors, including activists, aid practitioners, political campaigners, artists, religious leaders and journalists. In doing so, we will create a transnational and interdisciplinary forum for people who have been the object of poverty to express their empowerment and share their experiences, histories, traditions, and ideas of solutions to social injustice.

Online presence
A website will be established and regularly updated, to provide information on the project and research findings. Articles will be written for online blogs at regular intervals, which will assist in disseminating the network objectives and findings to interested non-specialists. A social media presence will also be maintained through the duration of the action, including a dedicated social media platform for the project. Stories will be collected in the ‘Archive of Alternate Futures’ (see below), while a blog space will provide a forum for global discussion.

Project Website, and the ‘archive for alternative futures’:
The website will act as a forum for exchanging experiences and ideas about poverty and its solutions. The ‘archive for alternate futures’ will provide a window onto the experiences and ideas of people on the frontline of poverty politics around the world. The website will carry reports of the projects in each of the localities, but it will also host a blog space where people can discuss and debate.

Local practitioners and policymakers
In the five specific ODA recipient nations in which events are being held, local narratives of poverty and poverty reduction will be captured, synthesised and co-produced through workshop discussions and the online forum. These research findings will thus be disseminated back to local academics, practitioners and policymakers, impacting on how development policy and poverty reduction strategies are conceptualised and implemented in these regions.

International Development policy and practice
A central objective of this Network is to disseminate research findings to international development policymakers and practitioners, within the specified ODA recipient nations (as described above), and also within the United Kingdom itself. The objective in doing so is to problematize and promote alternative visions of current development policy as set out in the UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by articulating alternative narratives and experiences of poverty. Officials from the UK governmental Department for International Development (DFID) will participate in the major conference at the University of Warwick which concludes the network grant period, building on pre-existing links between the two institutions. Research findings will be disseminated to UK civil servants and policymakers through the conference discussions, the production of a set of policy recommendations, and the co-production of a policy paper with DFID officials. Findings will also be disseminated through these same channels to representatives from prominent UK-based international development NGOs, such as Oxfam and Save the Children, who will participate in the concluding conference (which also builds on pre-existing links with key network personnel).

Public Exhibitions
Where possible across the poverty research network, exhibitions will be organised share the local stories that have been gathered from activists, NGOs, academics, and the people within communities that have been the traditional object of poverty discourses. Smaller versions of these will be gathered for an exhibition on global poverty politics, which will be held at the University of Warwick in conjunction with the concluding conference. This will be a blend of images and text that tells the story of the different experiences of poverty globally and different visions of solutions.

Providing an outlet for academics to engage with activism, and reflect on their approaches
Social justice issues often feature in our work as academics but there is often a disconnect between theory and practice as the context of our working life removes us from a more challenging interface with the themes with which we engage. This project not only creates the possibility global dialogues across socio-economic groups, it also creates a way to articulate the politics of poverty, which is itself a form of resistance.

Publications
Findings will be disseminated to other scholars and researchers through the production of a special edition of the peer-reviewed journal Social History. A provisional commitment to publish this special edition has already been obtained.


Project Team

Project core team

  • Principal InvestigatorJulia McClure, Assistant Professor in Global History, University of Warwick
  • Co-InvestigatorAnn Stewart, Professor, School of Law, University of Warwick
  • Co-Investigator: Andrew Jones, Teaching Fellow in Imperial History, University of Warwick

Steering Committee

  • Gurminder K. Bhambra, Professor of Sociology, University of Warwick
  • Daniel Branch, Professor in African History and Head of Department, University of Warwick
  • Camillia Cowling, Assistant Professor of Latin American History, University of Warwick
  • Anne Gerritsen, Professor in History, University of Warwick
  • Shirin M. Rai, Professor of Politics & International Studies, University of Warwick
  • Giorgio Riello, Professor of Global History and Culture and Director of the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick
  • Leon Sealey-Huggins, Senior Teaching Fellow, School for Cross-faculty Studies, University of Warwick
  • Benjamin Smith, Reader of Latin American History, University of Warwick

Regional Leads

  • Brazil: Norberto Ferreras, Professor of American History, Universidade Federal Fluminense (Rio de Janeiro)
  • South-East Europe: Julija Sardelic, Postdoctoral Resarcher, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool
  • Bangladesh: Firdous Azim, Professor of English and chair of the Department of English and Humanities, BRAC University (Dhaka)
  • Indian Ocean World: Steven Serels, Guest Researcher, Zentrum Moderner Orient (Berlin) and Rachel Wynberg, Professor in Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Bio-Economy Research Chair, University of Cape Town
  • Mexico: Benjamin Smith, Reader of Latin American History, University of Warwick

Workshop #1: Brazil

Workshop #1: ‘Poverty, Inequality and Forced Labour'

11 September 2017

Federal Fluminense University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Regional lead: Norberto Ferreras, Professor of American History, Universidade Federal Fluminense

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This workshop will bring together scholars who work on forced labour and poverty, with local activists and civil society organisations. Professor Ferreras will invite his contacts from the Landless Workers Movement (MST), including their lawyers and activists who campaign against forced labour. Representatives connected to the local phenomenon of ‘favela tourism’ will also attend, to interrogate the perspectives of poverty and poverty solutions produced by the tourist industry.

Workshop Programme:

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Workshop #2: South-East Europe

Workshop #2: ‘Intersecting patterns of poverty and the position of marginalized Romani minorities and post-conflict migration in Eastern Europe’

October 2017

The Cultural Centre of the Romani Settlement of Kamenci, Slovenia (hosted by NGO Mission)

Regional lead: Julija Sardelic, Postdoctoral Resarcher, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool

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While Europe seems to be one of the most prosperous regions in the world, there are still certain groups that have a much higher chance to be end up in a condition of absolute poverty, in particular the Romani minorities. Many Romani individuals try to solve their extremely deprived condition with migrating to other more prosperous countries in the EU, where they are then particularly considered as a problem. While the position of Romani EU citizens has been address to a great extent, this workshop will particularly focus on the position of Romani individuals coming from the non-EU Post-Yugoslav Countries, which have been formerly facing subsequent and overlapping war conflicts and are now ODA recipient countries (Serbia, Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo) in comparison to now EU post-Yugoslav countries such as Croatia and Slovenia.

The workshop will highlight how the patterns of poverty intersect and to a large extent define the position of marginalized Romani minorities and also their patterns of post-conflict migration. It will examine whether their position has changed due to the latest refugee crisis (in comparison to previous refugee crises the post-Yugoslav region has faced). The workshop will be hosted in the Cultural Centre of the Romani Settlement of Kamenci in Slovenia (hosted by NGO Mission). It will include academics as well as practitioners working on the position of Roma in the post-conflict region. Holding the workshop in a Romani settlement will give Roma themselves an opportunity to speak about their own experience of poverty.


Workshop #3: Bangladesh

Workshop #3: ‘Women, Migration and Poverty

November 2017

BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Regional lead: Firdous Azim, Professor of English and chair of the Department of English and Humanities, BRAC University

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While Bangladesh is known as a site for constant NGO development interventions in poverty alleviation, global economic drivers have also played a significant role in bringing women further into the greater economic sphere. Women workers within the country (especially in the garments sector), but even more interestingly women migrant workers, have made a huge impact upon the overall economic development of the country.

This workshop will explore the impact of these movements of female workers in women’s lives, in family structures and its impact on the cultural and social lives. The workshop will bring together researchers, NGO workers, and women’s organizations to discuss and critically engage with these issues at length.

Workshop Programme

Workshop Presentation Abstracts

‘Women, Migration and Poverty’: Workshop Overview & Report (written by undergraduate students at BRAC University)


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Workshop #4: Senegal

Workshop #4: Poverty and its urban niches

30 March 2018
West African Research Centre, Senegal
Regional lead: Omar Gueye, Cheikh Anta Diop University
Programme - Atelier sur la pauvreté du 30 mars 2018

Senegal workshop

This workshop is part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) project ‘Beyond Development: Local Visions of Global Poverty’, which is part of the poverty research network (a cross-institutional and interdisciplinary collaboration based between the University of Warwick and the University of Glasgow). ‘Beyond Development: Local Visions of Global Poverty’ aims to use the insights and methodologies of the arts and humanities to critically analyse constructions of poverty and narratives of poverty alleviation (especially ‘development’) within a cross-cultural and diachronic framework. Studies of poverty have often been dominated by econometric approaches, which can be flattening and do little to increase our understanding both of the multi-dimensional nature of poverties around the world and how ideas of poverty and its solutions have been conceptualised in different times and different places. The project is a collaboration between law and history in particular, and considers the way in which history can be used as a tool of social justice. regarding poverty alleviation by subverting mainstream narratives by indicating how they are historically constructed. We aim to collaborate with global partners to explore the historical experiences of and responses to poverty, to explore the historically constructed nature of poverty and to use alternative narratives to disrupt mainstream development narratives. 

Poised on the West African Atlantic, Senegal played an important role in the historic unfolding of colonialities and postcolonialities, the making and unmaking of global empires. Poverty is a significant legacy of these historical processes and today around half the population of Senegal is considered to live in persistent poverty. Despite the prevalence of poverty, the stories of the ways that people experience and resist poverty are seldom narrated and historicised. In this workshop we will consider the dialogues between poverty and urban landscapes. Poverty is a macro problem affecting large scale cities such as Dakar, but it is experienced in micro spaces, differentiated according to different scales. In this workshop we will explore the ways poverty interacts with different spaces, how it is unevenly distributed across centres and suburbs, how different niches of poverty are created, how poor people, such as prostitutes, beggars, and child workers, interact with urban environments and manage resources. This workshop will be an opportunity to explore the urban ecology of poverty, and the multiple forms of resistance to the structural inequalities faced by many.


Workshop #5: Mexico

Workshop #5: ‘Poverty and Indigeniety’

June 2018

The San Pablo Center, Oaxaca, Mexico

Regional lead: Benjamin Smith, Reader of Latin American History, University of Warwick

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This workshop will bring together scholars, activists and representatives of Cheran (center of the indigenous self defense groups) and the San Pablo Center, Oaxaca (an indigenous language center in Oaxaca City). They will meet to discuss the politics surrounding issues of how poverty has historically been linked to race, and how indigenous communities have sought to alleviate poverty through organic, non-institutional redistribution schemes.

 

Workshop #6: Warwick

Final concluding event: International Conference

September 2018

University of Warwick, United Kingdom

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At the end of the period of network building, representatives from each of the localities will be invited to participate at a major event at the University of Warwick, to exchange ideas, discuss common experiences of poverty, and share ideas on poverty reduction solutions. This event will also draw together experts from across the University of Warwick community, including world-leading academics from the GRP on International Development, who are especially leading the way in discussions of global gender equality, and Warwick’s Global History & Culture Centre.

Crucially, this conference will also include representatives from the UK's governmental Department for International Development and practitioners from prominent international development NGOs, with the explicit intention to bring this shared discussion and experience into dialogue with contemporary international development policy.