The Byways of the Poor
Organizing Practices and Economic Control in the Developing World
This is a new publication from a research programme to which the two DIIS researchers, Neil Webster and Lars Engberg-Pedersen, have contributed. The research programme focused on local organizations and rural poverty alleviation and this particular publication addresses the agency of the poor.
Two contrasting images typically represent “the poor” in development studies and practice. On the one hand, they are portrayed as those who do not have: deprivation is the quintessence of their identity, the definition of their being. The very notion of “poor” dooms the bearer to a subordinate, powerless status. Alternatively, they are idealistically depicted as thriving in solidarity, rich traditions, and true authentic experience - uncontaminated by capitalist ways of life and harmoniously linked to nature. An analysis of poverty requires stepping back from these stereotypical notions of the poor and examining the ways in which those identified as destitute deploy resources and act in pursuing their livelihoods.
Taking cases from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, India, Bangladesh, Peru and Mexico – and spanning diverse spheres of interaction: between donors and beneficiaries, local authorities and citizens, employers and employees, as well as between different social and ethnic groups – the contributions in this volume focus on people’s struggles to alleviate their poverty or to deal with situations of hardship and privation. They challenge traditional approaches within studies on poverty and developing countries by addressing the ways in which resources – including land, labour, credit and aid, water and cash, but also knowledge, skills, organization and moral entitlements – are accessed, deployed and negotiated. Whether successful or not, individual and collective efforts to juggle adversity help us understand the mechanisms by which poverty is reproduced, but also contested.