Introduction

By Rosendahl, Mona | Ibero-americana, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Introduction


Rosendahl, Mona, Ibero-americana


Poverty as a concept and social malady has been discussed and analyzed for decades in social sciences. What these ponderings have made evident is that it is no easy theme. Many scholars have treated poverty as a context when analyzing other aspects of society, while others have tried to discuss and refine the concept. In a spirit of transdisciplinarity this volume explores the economic and political context of poverty. It also problematizes the issue of mobilization against poverty and adds to economic analyses a perspective on the everyday strategies of poor people to survive and to achieve significant changes for themselves and for others. The ultimate goal with our analysis of poverty is to reveal the connection between people's experiences and economic and political change.

This special issue of Iberoamericana has been several years in the making.1 Drafts of most of the papers were first presented at the conference "Grappling with poverty: Life in the shadow of the Latin American crisis," held at the Institute of Latin American Studies, Stockholm University, in September 2004.2 The theme mirrored the concern born of the recent economic crisis in Latin America, which had culminated in the autumn of 2002. It had affected not only the populations traditionally seen as "poor" but had also impoverished many other sectors of society.

The 2004 conference in Stockholm came to reflect the disciplinary diversity of the field of Latin American studies itself and the many different perspectives from which the issue of poverty can be studied, also within the same disciplines. The four sessions of the conference explored, first, poverty as structural violence; second, the management of poverty in the local sphere; and, finally, two sessions on poverty reduction strategies and policies seen from a micro- and a macroeconomic perspective respectively. The authors of the now revised and updated papers3 represent the fields of economics, economic history, sociology and social and cultural anthropology. They analyze poverty as it influences and is influenced by issues like: multidimensional deprivation in Uruguay; divergent poverty assessments, trade and the prospects for economic growth in Haiti; international alliance-building of the current Brazilian administration; both social turbulence fuelled by international economic policies and local community-building among the urban poor in Bolivia; patronage politics in Argentina; and, finally, organized political violence as one of the means of the poor to combat poverty by attempting to strike against that which upholds social inequality in Colombia and Guatemala. In different ways, to different extents, and with different aims and results the articles explore the inter-relationship between economic, political and cultural factors both in the perpetuation of poverty and in the struggles against it. The volume thereby challenges the mono-disciplinary dominance in social science and assembles contributions in a joint effort to develop novel understandings of an old phenomenon with an increasingly alarming relevance.

The Articles in this Volume

One of the themes dealt with in the articles is the production and reproduction of inequality. Another theme deals with the different locations of mobilization - in local-level strategies of survival and mobility, in social movements and political parties and in discourses on suffering, cause and resistance. A third theme running through many of the articles is a critical reflection on the methodologies researchers employ in attempts to understand poverty and its many implications.

Using a multidimensional analysis, economist Andrea Vigorito shows that the economic crisis in Uruguay in the beginning of the 21st century increased the already existing inequality in the country. However, she argues, not all sectors of society deteriorated. By introducing new government policies the state invested in pensions so that older people were not affected by the crisis as much as other social categories. …

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