Department of Geography :: University of Washington


Relational Poverty Network

Lawson co-directs the Relational Poverty Network of scholars with Sarah Elwood.  This is a collaborative network (currently 60 social scientists at 30 institutions) focused on conceptual and methodological innovations in poverty research.  The RPN complements and extends mainstream poverty analysis through its combined focus on material relations, systems of rules that include and exclude, as well as on how meanings and social boundaries unite or separate the poor and non-poor.  The RPN builds new research and educational practices that will allow relational poverty research to be scaled up: 1) developing concepts that operationalize relational poverty in ways that can be compared across international empirically grounded research; 2) building descriptive metadata, including quantitative and qualitative sources, that supports comparative analysis, as well as meta-synthesis of research findings from individual projects; 3) developing an in-common research design to be operationalized in multiple new mixed-methods research studies; and 4) catalyzing debate and discovery across mainstream and relational poverty research scholars.  The RCN informs and frames comparative poverty research through meta-concepts such as: zones of encounter, economic crisis (recovery), social meaning-making and boundary-making, governance practices shaping poverty, and others yet to be developed. Circulating relational concepts through international comparisons facilitated by the RCN allows researchers to rigorously examine what supports, challenges or renders unusual findings from elsewhere.  The network involves scholars 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 to date include:

2013. Victoria Lawson and Sarah Elwood.  Encountering Poverty: Space, class and poverty politics.  Antipode In press.

2013.  Sarah Elwood and Victoria Lawson.  Who’s Crisis? Spatial Imaginaries of Class, Poverty and Vulnerability.  Environment and Planning A 45(1), 103-108.

2012. Victoria Lawson with the Middle Class Poverty Politics Research Group. De-centering Poverty Studies: middle class alliances and the social construction of poverty.  In press. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography.

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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