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New Social Compact

Is Shame Universally Associated with Poverty? An In-Depth Analysis on the Last Empirical Insight

Enrique Muñoz-Salido

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Poverty alleviation has implied an important goal for developing countries and policy-makers in the last century. Recently, organisations such as the United Nations or the World Bank have reported a paramount, increasing necessity for exerting efforts on reducing poverty in such countries.

Moreover, in 2016, the Organisation for the Economic Co-Operation and Development stressed the role of economic growth as a powerful factor in reducing poverty in developing countries. Incidentally, this positive effect can be drawn from empirical evidence such as the unprecedented poverty reduction associated with economic growth in the India since 1980, the poverty reduction—69% to 54%—in Mozambique caused by a 62% economic growth between 1996 and 2002, and the Chinese economic growth which have lifted 450 million of people out of poverty since 1979.

In parallel with this data, there has been empirically observed a potential link between poverty and shame that might imply a new avenue in research. Indeed, a team of researchers at University of Oxford (UK), Makerere University (Uganda), Oslo & Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (Norway), Institute of Rural Management (India) and Institute of Sociology, Chinese Academy of Social Scienes (China), has uncovered a new dimension of such linkage. The study (‘Poverty in Global Perspective: Is Shame a Common Denominator?’), which can be found at the Journal of Social Policy, starts wondering whether shame is universally associated with poverty—either in collectivistic or individualistic societies and cultures.

With the purpose of addressing their research question, they conduct a qualitative inquiry in diverse cultural settings, framing the concept of poverty according to local definitions for facilitating cross-country comparisons. Firstly, they investigate the poverty-shame nexus in each country by analysing cultures’ dominant values through a qualitative interpretation of their literature, film and proverbs. Secondly, after finding a linkage between poverty and shame, they conduct in-depth interviews with individuals experiencing poverty with the aim of applying a maximum difference technique that addresses their research question. Data analysed in the qualitative inquiry are in-depth interviews of adults and children—a total of 317 participants. Sample size involves seven countries with different culture—China, India, Korea, Norway, Pakistan, Uganda and the UK. Additionally, a total of 30 pieces of literature, film and proverbs is analysed in each country, covering a period of 150 years.

Cumulative evidence reveals that shame is universally associated with poverty, regardless the social and cultural nuance. In addition, they also find that poverty-related shame is internally felt but externally imposed by (1) the attitudes of those not in poverty, (2) anti-poverty policies and (3) the public discourse, causing individuals pretence, withdrawal, depression and despise, among other consequences.

In addition, the study does not only reveal innovative insights but also is quality research on the field—let us briefly analyse the substance of its methodological background.

The most remarkable weakness of qualitative inquiries is that researchers´ personal biases and idiosyncrasies can more easily exert an influence on respondents, making them to be less suitable for testing theories in comparison with quantitative inquiries approaches. However, the research team of this study fights against such weakness by avoiding to include the words ‘poverty’ or ‘shame’ neither in the in-depth interviews nor in the selection process of the respondents, with the aim of decreasing the chance for potential biases and hence balancing that weakness.

Moreover, they construct themselves the nexus that addresses their research question by induction, as they assert that there is not much known about this phenomenon. In light of the essence of this study, that poverty-related shame can be externalised but also internally felt, the chosen methodology is the most suitable to access to this dimension, as a quantitative inquiry could not reach to lived experiences that are not much known about.

Furthermore, the study also investigates the ‘universality’ of that nexus, something that might seem debatable under the traditional ontological position of qualitative inquiries. This position states that there exist ‘multiple realities’ and ‘truths’, which could lead advocates of the ‘incompatibility thesis’—thesis that confines the choice of the methodology to the paradigm, implying the impossibility of a combination—to argue against the fact of studying the ‘universality’ of a phenomenon through a qualitative inquiry. However, as an attempt to avoid such confrontation, the study uses of a maximum difference design—under the rationale that if the nexus holds across extremely different cultural settings, it might imply its ‘universality’—as it inherently recognises the existence of those multiple realities, with the only aim of observing whether those realities are linked under a common pattern, something that is totally consistent with the ontological position of the qualitative paradigm, leading to stifle the aforesaid potential critiques.

Another important feature of this study is that its purposive/qualitative sampling lies in line with the purpose of its inquiry, as it is achieved a selection of cases for an in-depth focus of study at the same time that transferability is allowed for generalising the findings and hence achieving the universality of the nexus—despite cultural nuances.

Concluding, the explicit appropriateness of the chosen methodology with the research question implies a causal, irreducible factor for fully addressing the phenomenon that the research question arises and hence for achieving an ‘excellent’ research that implies one of the most important empirical insights on social and cultural anthropology of this decade.

Enrique is an MSc Candidate in Social Anthropology at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford. His research interests lie at the intersection of human behaviour and social interactions and his top analytical skills comprise macro and micro data analysis and statistical methods. Prior to joining Oxford, Enrique completed his MSc in Economics (distinction) at the University of Brighton, UK, where he was a Santander Scholar, and his undergraduate degree at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain.

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New Social Compact

Modernizing Higher Education for Economic Growth

MD Staff

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Malawi has fewer affordable universities than it has students who want to go to them, leaving college out of reach for many. Enrollment in tertiary education is low, but more and more Malawians hunger for it. With IDA financing from the World Bank, Malawian citizens now have more options.

The five-year, $51 million Skills Development Project is helping public universities to strengthen and increase public access to programs that cater to sectors critical to Malawi’s economic growth. These include engineering, natural resources extraction, agriculture, construction, health services, tourism, and hospitality.

Beyond the establishment of the National Council for Higher Education, project funding supports a range of activities at institutions, including improving course offerings and staff skills, renovating infrastructure, and setting up satellite facilities.

Market-relevant course offerings

To expand the range of scientific skills and mid-level technicians needed to fuel Malawi’s economy, 39 new programs have been developed by universities, with the participation of the private sector ensuring their relevance to the economy. By 2017, these programs contributed 44 percent of the new student intake to public universities.

Diploma programs at universities have also been bolstered to increase the training of mid-level career personnel needed by various trades. For example, the University of Malawi’s Polytechnic now offers 10 technician-level engineering diploma programs in subjects like mining, telecommunications, and health. By 2019, these programs are expected to have enrolled 750 diploma students.

Modernized facilities

One of the major constraints to increasing student enrollment at public universities has been space. At Chancellor College, where most of Malawi’s secondary school science teachers are trained, more and better infrastructure is expected to make it possible to boost student intake by 65 percent. This includes modernized laboratories and four new lecture halls seating 350 students each.

This will go a long way toward meeting an increase in the demand for science teachers, following the introduction of physics and chemistry as separate subjects in the secondary school curriculum.

Mzuzu University is heading to be the country’s center of excellence in tourism training. It is constructing a purpose-built tourism and hospitality facility that will produce graduates who are industry-ready.

Online and distance learning

The Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and Mzuzu have introduced online and distance learning (ODL), resulting in increased enrollment at both. At LUANAR, online students make up 10 percent of the total student population. Between 2014 and 2016, Mzuzu increased its intake of online students tenfold. With more affordable fees and flexible options, the ODL system has helped to open access to higher education for many people nationwide.

“I enrolled through ODL because of its flexibility. I continue with my everyday life and yet I am studying at the same time. This is wonderful,” says 45-year-old Joe Mwenye, a father of five and a teacher in Ngabu in Chikwawa district. He is studying at LUANAR for a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Extension.

LUANAR has three ODL centers: one in the town of Mzuzu, another in Lilongwe, and another in Blantyre. Mzuzu University is opening satellite centers in Balaka, Karonga, Mulanje, and Lilongwe.

World Bank

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New Social Compact

The Depth of Taboo: Social Issues in South Asia

Dr. Matthew Crosston

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Rarely does a geopolitical handbook also make such large and important contributions to uncomfortably critical social issues. This handbook is that rare example. The author Aryal takes our MD readers deep into some disturbing discussions – caste systems, systematic violence against women, rape, honor killings, gender stigmatizing, and societal sexism – not to just anecdotally expose people to some of the continued living horrors afflicting important regions of the world but to systematically analyze such atrocities so that their long-term political, economic, social, and diplomatic consequences are revealed.

What many around the world do not realize is how crippling these gross abuses of human decency can be for a nation and region writ large: these are not just individual crimes to be noted and then forgotten. The failure of societies, the failure of GLOBAL society, to make more effective progress and take a more rigid stand against injustice is a black mark on all countries, on all of us. This handbook in its own small way strives to be a light within that darkness and as such it is both informative and courageous. While the readers of MD will not find the content of this particular handbook for the faint of heart, the importance of acquiring this knowledge, of becoming more aware of the world that we live in as it truly is in so many places, should be considered a duty of all those fortunate enough to not be born into states where such systemic violence still exists and largely goes unchallenged.

The title of this work is no accident and no shameless marketing attempt to attract more readers. Rather, it is exposing in a single word the reason why overcoming systemic violence based on gender is so difficult. Social taboos run deep in every region, state, city, town, village. We will likely not succeed in eliminating them from the social conscience of people. But the attempt to ameliorate the power of taboo, its power to push rationality out and pull insanity in, is a noble one that all of us at the editorial staff at MD recognize as silently essential for the cause of future peace on so many different levels. The battle against taboo is the secret front end of the war against gender violence and oppression. Ultimately, the criminal justice systems of societies must improve to remedy those actions not prevented from occurring. But the real long-term comprehensive solution will be the effort to eliminate the fear of social taboos, to eliminate the stigma that drives many to commit ignorant violence in the first place.

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Women and girls with autism must be empowered to overcome discrimination they face

MD Staff

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On World Autism Awareness Day, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has joined the global call to empower women and girls with autism and involve them and their advocates in policy and decision-making to address the discrimination and other challenges they face.

“They face […] barriers to accessing education and employment on an equal footing with others, denial of their reproductive rights and the freedom to make their own choices, and a lack of involvement in policy making on matters that concern them,” said the Secretary-General in his message on the Day.

Emphasizing that “our work for gender equality and women’s empowerment must reach all the world’s women and girls,” he stressed that the international community’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must uphold the 2030 Agenda’s core promise to leave no one behind.

The Goals and the landmark framework from which they emerged were adopted by UN Member States three years ago. Together they aim to wipe out poverty and boost equality by putting the world on a more sustainable economic, social and environmental path by 2030.

“On World Autism Awareness Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to promote the full participation of all people with autism, and ensure they have the necessary support to be able to exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms,” concluded the Mr. Guterres.

Autism is a lifelong neurological condition that manifests during early childhood, irrespective of gender, race or socio-economic status. The term Autism Spectrum refers to a range of characteristics.

Autism is mainly characterized by its unique social interactions, non-standard ways of learning, keen interests in specific subjects, inclination to routines, challenges in typical communications and particular ways of processing sensory information.

The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and the lack of understanding has a tremendous impact on the individuals, their families and communities.

The World Day is marked annually on 2 April, and this year’s official UN commemoration will be on Thursday, 5 April, with a half-day programme in New York entitled Empowering Women and Girls with Autism, that will feature a keynote address from Julia Bascom, Executive Director, Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

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