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Title: The meaning of poverty : perspectives from a Scottish housing estate
Author: Stone, Ian
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1997
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The first part of the thesis examines the subjective definitions and conceptions of poverty held by local residents. It finds that local residents generally resist the idea that they are poor. In their own accounts, they emphasise their personal capacity and scope for control, rather than the constraints that they face. The research goes on to ask: what is it about the experience of people in these areas and their understanding of the meaning of poverty which makes them deny that they are poor? For those interviewed poverty is interpreted at a personal level as a form of identity associated with a lack of agency. People are identified as poor not by their material circumstances alone, but by their inability to cope with and remain on top of conditions of material hardship. It is in this context that respondents stress their ability to manage and overcome the difficulties they face and by this means seek to demonstrate their personal competence and moral adequacy. In the second part of the thesis, the relationship between poverty, agency and identity is explored with respect to the community and local people's involvement in community action. Two distinct discourses on poverty are identified in the accounts of local residents active in local groups and organisations. An exclusive discourse of poverty identifies poor people as a distinct social group by reference to their weakness, demoralisation and dependent status. Local activists experience this discourse as exclusionary and disempowering. However, a more inclusive discourse on poverty is apparent in the accounts of some activists which links the experience of poverty to more positive forms of collective action and mutual support developed in the community. This discourse is compatible with a conception of people as social agents, actively involved in maintaining their welfare in conditions of relative material deprivation. The thesis raises questions about the ways in which poverty is understood in different contexts and by different groups. It also reveals the problematic nature of poverty discourse for individuals who experience material hardship or belong to groups identified as poor. It is the struggle to maintain a positive self-conception in the light of negative meanings conveyed through poverty discourse that emerges from this study.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available