Re-Politicizing Poverty: Relational Re-conceptualizations of Impoverishment

The latest issue of Antipodevolume 52, number 2 – is hot off the press. It opens with five essays brought together by three University of Washington geographers, Austin Crane, Sarah Elwood and Victoria Lawson – co-conveners of the Relational Poverty Network.

The RPN is an international community of scholars, teachers, policy makers, and activists working within and beyond academia to: [i] shift from thinking about “the poor and poor others” to relationships of power and privilege; [ii] work across boundaries to foster a transnational, comparative, and interdisciplinary approach to poverty research; and [iii] use multidirectional theory building that incorporates marginalized voices to build innovative concepts for poverty research.

The essays brought together by Austin, Sarah and Victoria extend cross-disciplinary conversations between co-authors that began as part of a podcast series by the RPN, “New Poverty Politics for Changing Times”. The authors engage impoverishment as a relation, as an outcome of intersecting political projects of racialized oppression, political-economic injustice and socio-legal control. Across various sites, the authors trace poverty politics, providing conjunctural and multi-scalar analyses that illuminate the operations of power in producing impoverishment. They direct our attention beyond topics typically associated with poverty studies, showing how processes such as bordering, migrant illegality, racial capitalism and caring community politics intersect in poverty politics today.

An introductory essay argues for a relational poverty analysis that addresses the entanglements of cultural politics, those that produce classificatory schemes, together with political-economic processes that produce various forms of poverty politics in the current conjuncture. It charts thinkable and unthinkable poverty politics across the collection’s essays in order to analyze current hegemonic formations of poverty governance as well as alternative imaginations and actions that are resisting and reworking relations of impoverishment.

Ultimately, this collection expands vocabularies and analytical repertoires for understanding the ongoing ways in which impoverishment is produced and resisted, positing relationality as key to repoliticizing poverty towards a more just future.

The essays