Rethinking Poverty: A Graduate Conference on Economic Inequality and the Humanities

Country: USA

City: Chicago

Abstr. due: 01.09.2016

Dates: 24.02.17 — 26.02.17

Area Of Sciences: Economics and management;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: University of Illinois Chicago


In American Hungers, Gavin Jones notes that “poverty has usefully described a dynamic, contextual, and flexible social state that people move into and out of from many positions.” How does presenting poverty as a “dynamic” and permeable economic condition help us to understand its significance in our communities, nations, and world? The question of theorizing poverty has often been taken up by the social sciences, but what the humanities might offer to poverty studies remains largely unexplored. How might the humanities theorize poverty? What can the questions central to the humanities—questions of representation, of cultural and aesthetic significance, and of historical analysis—add to our current understanding of the poor and of the problem of poverty?

Though the field of working-class studies has helpfully brought attention to the complexities of theorizing the working class and the proletariat, poverty as a topic in itself poses a related but divergent set of challenges: Poverty is inherently intersectional, inextricable from race, gender, disability, and citizenship, especially in the United States. Yet as a socio-economic category that cannot be abstracted from material need or lack, it is not clear that poverty can be adequately explored within an identitarian framework. However, to reduce “the poor” to a silent mass, or to think of poverty only in terms of structural notions of production and consumption, or domination and oppression, may be inadequate as well. How, then, might we investigate the nuances of the dynamic of poverty as both a lived experience and as a material condition necessary under capitalism?

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