Geography 542: Reworking Poverty


Winter, 2009




Victoria Lawson                                                          Tel: 543-5196

Office: Smith 303-D                                                   e-mail:




We will discuss poverty and inequality drawing on theoretical ideas developed in both Majority and Minority Worlds.  We will pose questions about how political-economic forces, cultural productions and discursive formations come to frame people and places as 'poor'.  We will investigate how political-economic and cultural productions work to reproduce poverty through processes of exclusion, exception and arguments for the remaking of people and places.  We will explore the construction of geographical imaginaries and of spaces in which only certain things are possible in relation to poverty.  We also consider the co-production of poverty, attending to how people accommodate poverty, seeking to maintain dignity and civility rather than resisting either representations or material productions of poverty/inequality.  Finally, we will interrogate dominant theorization of 'Economy' as the only way to frame, and respond to, poverty.  We will draw on feminist theorizations of care to demonstrate the inseparability of care/uncare in all social relations that matter.  We will ask how poverty results from uncare -- the separation of economy from the social. 


The first part of the course will examine the contemporary context and histories of poverty knowledge across the Americas.  We then explore the theoretical and methodological challenges in constructing transnational approaches to rethinking poverty knowledge and practice.  We read a series of case studies that engage these innovative approaches to rethinking poverty in relation to middle classes, across race difference and in rural and urban places.  Finally, we turn to consider a feminist care ethics approach to reframing poverty knowledge.  In so doing, we will think through the challenges of producing innovative and caring knowledge under ethical and responsible relations to people with whom we work. 


Course Readings:


A course reading packet will be available for purchase at Rams Copy and Print on the Ave.



Course Requirements:


i) Complete all assigned readings before class meetings, and participating in critical discussions of those readings.


ii) Write a ‘think piece’ on 1 reading each week of the quarter.  These will be one paragraph in length, discussing your reaction to (at least) one of the readings for that week, these will be circulated at the beginning of the class session and will be incorporated into our activities for that session.


iii) Lead class sessions (designed by you) that engage ideas from the readings.


iv) Complete a research paper (20 pages) prompted by themes raised in class and guided by your own research trajectory.



Important Dates


Monday Jan. 19th Martin Luther King’s Birthday


Monday Feb. 16th President’s Day


** Monday March 16th paper due in my box **








Week 1 (Jan 6th)


Discussion of intellectual framing of the course.  All participants will introduce themselves and their interests.  Class discussion of learning goals and approaches to learning that are most successful for each person.  Discussion of what brought students to the course and of what each person hopes to take away.


Visitor: Asuncion St. Clair, University of Bergen.



Week 2 (Jan 13th)


Poverty and Inequality in Neo-liberal Times


Economist, 2006.  ‘Inequality in America: the rich, the poor and the growing gap between them’ June 17th issue.


Krugman, P.  2002.  For Richer.  New York Times, October 20th edition.


Goode, J. and Maskovsky, J.  2001.  The New Poverty Studies.  Chapter 1. 


Fox-Piven, F.  2001.  ‘Welfare Reform and the Economic and Cultural Reconstruction of Low Wage Labor Markets’ in The New Poverty Studies by Goode, J. and Maskovsky, J.


Harvey, D.  2003.  ‘Accumulation by Dispossession’ chapter 4 The New Imperialism.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Bello, W.  ‘Afterthoughts: A Primer on the Wall Street Meltdown’ at


Supplemental reading suggested on capital:


Harvey, D.  1985.  ‘The Geopolitics of Capitalism’ in Social Relations and Spatial Structures, Gregory, D. and J. Urry, eds., Chapter 7.  London: Macmillan.

Harvey, D.  1982.  The Limits to Capital.



Week 3 (Jan 20th)


Producing Poverty Knowledge across Majority and Minority Worlds


O’Connor, A.  2002.  Poverty Knowledge.  Social Science, Social Policy and the Poor in Twentieth Century U.S. History.  Chapters Introduction, 10 and 11.


Wilson, W.J.  1987.  The Truly Disadvantaged.  Chapter 2.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Escobar, A.  1995.  Encountering Development.  The Making and Unmaking of the Third World.  Chapters Introduction and 2.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Green, Maia.  2003.  ‘Presenting Poverty and Attacking Representations: Perspectives on Poverty from Social Anthropology’ Journal of Development Studies 42(7): 1108-1129.



Week 4 (Jan 26th)

Transnational Methodology


Roy, A.   2003  ‘Paradigms of Propertied Citizenship: Transnational Techniques of Analysis’ Urban Affairs Review 38: 463-491.


Sparks, T.  2009.  ‘As Much Like Home as Possible: Geographies of Homelessness and Citizenship in Seattle’s Tent City 3’ Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Geography, University of Washington, chapter 1.


Hart, G.  2006.  ‘Denaturalizing Dispossession: Critical Ethnography in the Age of Resurgent Imperialism’ Antipode Vol 38(5): 977- 1004


Gibson-Graham, J.K.  2005.  ‘Surplus Possibilities? Postdevelopment and Community Economies’ Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 26(1): 4-26.



Week 5 (Feb 3rd)


Time, Space and narratives of Poverty


Mouffe, C.  1979.  ‘Hegemony and Ideology in Gramsci’ in Gramsci and Marxist Theory.  London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.


Watkins, E.  1993.  Throwaways.  Work Culture and Consumer Education.  Stanford: Stanford University Press.  Chapters introduction, 1 and 2.


Schram, S.  2000.  After welfare: the culture of postindustrial social policy.  New York: New York University Press.  Chapters 1 and 2


Massey, D.  2005.  For Space.  London: Sage Publications.  Chapter 5, 6 (55 -71) and 14.



Week 6 (Feb 10th)


Social Constructions of Places and People I


Dougherty, C.  2008.  ‘The New American Gentry’ The Wall Street Journal, Jan 19th, 2008.


Jarosz, L. and Lawson, V.  2002.  ‘Sophisticated People Versus Rednecks’: Economic Restructuring and Class Difference in America’s West’ Antipode 34(1): 8-27.


Epp, R. and Whitson, D.  2001.  Writing off the Rural West.  Globalization, Governments and the Transformation of Rural Communities.  Edmonton: University of Alberta Press.  Chapters, introduction, 6 and 17.


Lawson, V., Jarosz, L. and Bonds, A.  2009.  ‘Dumping Grounds and Unseen Grounds: Placing Poverty, Race and Ethnicity in the American Northwest’ Under revision for the Annals of the Association of American Geographers.


Duncan, C.  1999.  Worlds Apart.  Yale University Press. chapters 1 and 2.



Week 7 (Feb 17th)


Social Constructions of Places and People II


Wilson, D. and Bauder, H.  2001.  ‘Discourse and the Making of Marginalized People’ Tijdschrift voor Economishe en Social Geografie 92(3): 259-260.


Wilson, D.  2001.  ‘Colouring the City: “Black-on-Black Violence” and Liberal Discourse’ Tijdschrift voor Economishe en Social Geografie 92(3): 261-278.


Dunn, K.  2001.  ‘Representations of Islam in the Politics of Mosque Development in Sydney’ Tijdschrift voor Economishe en Social Geografie 92(3): 291-308.


Ruben, M.  2001.  ‘Suburbanization and Urban Poverty under Neoliberalism’ in Goode, J. and Maskovsky, J.  2001.  The New Poverty Studies




Week 8 (Feb 24tht)


Poverty Processes: Debt and Finance


Bailey, N.  2005.  ‘Predatory Lending.  The New Face of Economic Injustice’ in Human Rights.  Summer edition.


Williams, B.  2001.  ‘What’s Debt Got to Do with It?’ in The New Poverty Studies by Goode, J. and Maskovsky, J.


Young, S.  2009.  ‘The “Moral Hazards” of Microfinance: Restructuring Rural Credit in India’ Antipode forthcoming.


Graves, S.  ‘Landscapes of Predation, Landscapes of Neglect: A Location Analysis of Payday Lenders and Banks’ Professional Geographer 55(3): 303-317.



Week 9 (Mar 3rd)


Poverty as Relational: the Middle Classes and Poverty


Frey, W.  America by the Numbers chapter 6.


Milanovic, B.  2005.   ‘A World Without a Middle Class’ chapter 10 in Worlds Apart.  Measuring International and Global Inequality.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Jeffrey, C.  ‘Kicking Away the Ladder’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space


Lawson, V., Jarosz, L. and Bonds, A.  2008.  ‘Building economies from the bottom up: (mis)representations of poverty in the American Northwest’ Social and Cultural Geography 9(7): 737-753.


Duncan, C.  1999.  Worlds Apart. Yale University Press.  Chapter 3.


Dennis, G.  Mexico’s Middle Class in the Neoliberal Era.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press.  Selected chapters.


Supplemental reading:


Lamont, M.  1992.  Money, Morals and Manners. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  Selected chapters prologue, and 1.

Bourdieu, P.  1984.  Distinction.



Week 10 (Mar 10th)


Reworking Poverty through Feminist Care Ethics


Lawson, V.  2005.  ‘Geographies of Care and Responsibility’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97(1): 1-11.


Schram, S.  2006.  Welfare Discipline.  Discourse, Governance and Globalization.  Chapter introduction and 3.


Lawson, V.  ‘Beyond Global Poverty: Tracing uncare in theory and policy’ Paper presented at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University, Nov. 2008.


Sousa Santos, B.  2007.  Another Knowledge is Possible.  Chapter 1.


Pogge, T.  2007.  ‘Why Inequality Matters’ chapter 6 in Held, D. and Kaya, A.  Global Inequality.  Cambridge: Polity Press.