Department of Geography :: University of Washington


Relational Poverty Network

Lawson co-directs the Relational Poverty Network of scholars with Sarah Elwood.  The Relational Poverty Network convenes a community of scholars, working within and beyond academia, to develop conceptual frameworks, research methodologies, and pedagogies for the study of relational poverty. Launched at a historical moment of dramatic income inequality and enforced austerity in the global North, the RPN thinks across geographical boundaries to foster a transnational and comparative approach to poverty research.  In doing so, it pays attention to new global geographies of development, new forms of regulating poverty, and analyses from those often marginalized by poverty debates.  Building on a long tradition of critical work on poverty, it shifts from thinking about ‘the poor and poor others’ to thinking about relationships of power and privilege. The network involves members from across the social sciences and in North America, the United Kingdom, India, Norway, Europe, South Africa and Argentina. Please follow the link for more information about our activities.  Lawson and Elwood are also conducting  empirical research on the shifting social relationships and poverty politics between middle classes and the poor in collaboration with scholars in Argentina and across the U.S.  Publications include:

Lawson, V. and Elwood, S. 2018. Relational Poverty Politics: forms, struggles and possibilities. Edited volume University of Georgia Press.

Elwood, S. and Lawson, V. 2018.  ‘The Arts of Poverty Politics: Real Change’ Social and Cultural Geography submitted.

Lawson, V. and Elwood, S. 2017. Hegemonies are not totalities! Repoliticizing poverty as a site of resistance. Soundings. 65 Spring Issue [].

Gillespie, K. and Lawson, V.  2017. ‘My Dog is my Home’: multi-species care and poverty politics in Los Angeles, CA and Austin, TX. Gender, Place and Culture. 24(6), 774-793.

Elwood, S and Lawson, V. Neutralizing Homelessness: Federal Policy and the De-Politicization of Poverty Urban Geography 38(3), 329-331.

Geographies of Care and Responsibility

Lawson writes on feminist care ethics and questions of political responsibility, with a particular focus on those named and constructed as poor.  Across the decades geographers have been concerned with questions of our ethical responsibilities to care. It would seem that care is nothing new in geography. I argue however, that contemporary societal shifts are extending market relations into caring realms of our lives and that we are witnessing reductions in public provision of social supports. These twin trends have made care a more pressing concern and have simultaneously marginalized care from view. Geographers are well positioned to draw attention to these trends and I argue for our responsibility to care about these issues, and the geographies that they make. I pose questions about our responsibilities as geographers in the face of (i) market extensions, (ii) currently pervasive discourses of personal responsibility (for poverty, inner city decline, unemployment, etc.), and (iii) the withdrawal of public support from many crucial arenas. Care ethics focuses our attention on the social and how it is constructed through unequal power relationships, but it also moves us beyond critique and toward the construction of new forms of relationships, institutions, and action that enhance mutuality and well-being. I consider how our research, teaching, and professional practices might shift in conversation with care ethics. Care ethics suggests that we build spatially extensive connections of interdependence and mutuality, that we attend to the ways in which historical and institutional relationships produce the need for care (extension of market relations; famine, unnatural disasters, environmental and cultural destruction), and that we take up social responsibility in our professional practices.  Recent publications include:

2012. Atkinson, S., Lawson, V. and Wiles, J. Editorial Introduction. Care of the body: spaces of practice. Social and Cultural Geography. 12(6): 563-572.

2012. Maia Green and Victoria Lawson. Displacing Care. Social and Cultural Geography. 12(6): 639-654.

2009.  Victoria Lawson.  ‘Instead of radical geography, how about caring geography?’ Antipode, 41 (1), 210-213.

2007.  Victoria Lawson.  ‘Geographies of Care and Responsibility’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97(1), 1-11.

Critical Development Geographies 

This book titled ‘Critical Development Geographies’ (2007) is part of the Edward Arnold Series, Human Geography in the Making, series editor, Alexander Murphy.  This book provides an intellectual history of development geography and assesses recent trends within development geography/studies. I argue that apoststructural feminist political-economy approach constitutes an exciting future for development geography.  I introduce readers to Critical Development Geography (CDG) which analyzes development as polyvalent and contextual in terms of its intellectual and material foundations.  CDG also attends to the formation and experiences of diverse subjects of development, analyzing the ways in which particular intellectual streams privilege or erase different subjects and actors.  Finally, and central to CDG, I argue that attending to the spatiality of development — the ways in which discourses and practices of development link places, move through scales and operate in relation to boundaries — can reveal and help explain the paradoxes and also work to democratize development.

2007.  Victoria Lawson.  Making Development GeographyInvited book for the Arnold Series, Human Geography in the Making, series editor, Alexander Murphy.

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