The construction of the global poor: an anthropological critique

Posted in conference 


Akhil Gupta


The growing attention being paid to global poverty raises a number of analyticalquestions. What are the origins of this sudden interest in global poverty? How is it to be explained? Why did it arise at this particular historical juncture? And what are itseffects on international institutions, nation states in the North and South, and mostimportantly, on the world’s poor?


Since the late 1990s, poverty has once more become an important issue on the international agenda. However, discourse on ‘global poverty’. If we chart, somewhat unscientifically, the number of publications in which the term ‘global poverty’ has been used, we notice a 500 per cent increase from 1999 to 2005. The new consensus on global poverty culminated in the UN Millennium Declaration (September 2000).


The paradox of global poverty is that it has drawn worldwide attention to a phenomenon that is in need of urgent action from a range of global players, yet by decontextualizing poverty, it invites ‘solutions’ that are largely ineffective. Raising the alarm about the extent of poverty is not sufficient to combat it effectively. Lack of attention to meaning, historical inequalities and structural conditions will inevitably slow down the process of poverty alleviation. The wrong strategy may actually reinforce ideas
about the intractability of poverty whose ultimate effect is the normalization of human suffering.



Important review.