EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P072)
Cash transfers and the 'rediscovery' of households in the 21st century
Location U6-21
Date and Start Time 23 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Martin Fotta (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main) email
  • Maria Elisa Balen (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel explores how cash transfer programs—their material infrastructure, the assumptions they convey about families, and the novel arrangements they enable - interact with local views on, and practices of, households.

Long Abstract

In recent decades, cash transfers—conditional or unconditional—have become probably the most popular development and anti-poverty measure worldwide. They aim to increase human capital and empower the poor by recognizing that people themselves are best placed to decide what they need, while forging new links between states and their citizens. Yet in order to qualify, citizens must occupy specific household and life-cycle positions; others, such as single young men, are ineligible. This panel explores how cash transfer programs—their material infrastructure, the assumptions about families, and the novel arrangements they enable - interact with local views on, and practices of, households. It asks, among other things, how these schemes impact relationships between genders or generations; how cash and labor are allocated within households; what role payments play in the financialization of households; and how households use their participation in these programs to alter their position within their communities.

In the 1970s and 1980s, households became important analytically for anthropologists trying to understand the processes through which people were incorporated into national market economies. While this focus has fallen somewhat out of fashion, 'household' (critically redeployed) remains a useful for analyzing the ways in which social relations of present-day capitalism are 'generated' (Bear et al. 2015). This is especially true of the new regime of distribution centered on cash transfers (Ferguson 2015), which posits specific forms of gendered familial relations as crucial conduits of development and households as conversion points mediating between the state, the market, and the community.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The political economy of cash transfers: labour, households and politics among the Guarani of the Argentine Chaco

Author: Agustin Diz (London School of Economics)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the ways in which cash transfers are central to the political economies of indigenous Guarani settlements in Argentina. It analyses how cash transfers challenge and reinforce notions of labour and households, which have broader implications for local kinship and politics.

Long Abstract

Enthusiastically embraced by national governments and multilateral development institutions alike, cash transfer programs are becoming an increasingly valuable - and transformational - resource for marginal households throughout the world. Drawing on ethnographic data collected over the course of long-term ethnographic fieldwork, this paper explores the ambiguous impact of cash transfer programmes on indigenous Guarani households in Argentina. It shows that cash transfer programmes that target mothers are treated as 'special money' due to the confluence of administrative and local notions regarding motherhood and women's labour. In a context where male unemployment is rampant, the feminisation of cash transfers payments has strengthened pre-existing gender roles but also transformed them and led to incipient changes in family structures. These changes include young men's unwillingness to recognise the paternity of children and an increase in multi-generational, all-female households. While these impacts seem circumscribed to the level of local household practices, it is suggested that cash transfers are increasingly central to local politics and have also affected people's experiences of citizenship and belonging. Drawing on feminist insights, this paper argues that cash transfers simultaneously challenge and reinforce notions of labour and households. As a result, if we are to understand their generativity and their potential to create dependency, cash transfers must also be understood within the context of local political economies.

Conditional cash transfers and the rural household economy: understanding Bolsa familia's underperformance in the Brazilian Amazon

Authors: Barbara Piperata (The Ohio State University)  email
Kendra McSweeney (Ohio State University)  email

Short Abstract

Brazil’s Bolsa Família is the largest CCT program in the world. Analysis of longitudinal data on health and food security indicates it may underperform in subsistence-based Amazonian communities. An understanding of intra- and inter-household dynamics helps explain these disappointing results.

Long Abstract

The highly-publicized success of Brazil's Bolsa Família Program, the largest conditional cash transfer program in the world, has become a model for similar programs elsewhere, including in highly rural African nations. This is despite the dearth of information on the impact of the program in rural contexts. Drawing on a unique natural experiment and using detailed health and dietary data collected in rural Amazonian subsistence-based households, we analyze the impact of this critical policy on programmatic goals among the rural poor. Our data demonstrate the urgent need for more fine-grained biocultural research on this and similar policies. We show that despite close adherence to programmatic conditionalities, recipient households' food security was measurably worse off and children's poor nutritional status was virtually unchanged four years into the program. Using insights from long-term ethnographic data collection, we discuss the mechanisms, including changes in intra-household and inter-household dynamics, which help explain these disappointing results in this rural zone, and raise broader questions about the role of conditional cash transfer programs for breaking the cycle of poverty in subsistence-based communities worldwide.

The meanings of "help" within "Bolsa Familia" cash transfer program in Brazil

Author: André Pires (Catholic Campinas University)  email

Short Abstract

This study presents the results of an ethnographic investigation among beneficiaires of the Family Aid Program in the municipality of Campinas, São Paulo State, Brazil.

Long Abstract

The paper aims to present the results of an investigation among beneficiaries of the "Family Aid Program" (PBF in its Portuguese Programa Bolsa Família - used throughout this text), the Federal Government's main income transfer program, in Campinas (Brazil). The study is based on beneficiaries' perception that the "Family Allowance helps". On the basis of this classification, I shall aim to understand the meanings of the word "help" from two angles. Firstly, I examine how one meaning of "help" ties in with the fact that people receive the benefit in a region like Campinas, which clusters 19 municipalities and has an estimated population of some 2.5 million people. Secondly, it will be seen how the word "help" denotes how the family incorporates the program's money in ways pervaded by gender roles (links). I discuss how the participation of women in the PBF reflects tension between two poles. On one hand, entering the program enables undeniable gains for women and the affirmation of their authority within the domestic space. Furthermore, the study showed that meeting the conditions of the program paved the way to establishing links between beneficiaries and the State, enabling the women to play the role of intermediaries between the family and the "outside world", without the need for masculine figures to mediate. All of these gains, however, are only possible within the context of a public policy that fosters a taking for granted that the exercise of mothering is a skill exclusive to women.

Download PDF of paper

Imagined households: how the next generation's household is being imagined at three different levels of conditional cash transfer implementation

Author: Andres Dapuez (Conicet)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I compare how promoters, national development officials and transnational economists, in considering “mothers” to be efficient administrators of Oportunidades (Mexico) and Asignación Universal por Hijo (Argentina) CCT money, project different notions of ideal households.

Long Abstract

At three different levels of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) implementation (trans-national, national and local) transfer money acquires diverse, if not contradictory, meanings. In this paper I compare how promoters, national development officials and transnational economists, in considering "mothers" to be efficient administrators of Oportunidades (Mexico) and Asignación Universal por Hijo (Argentina) CCT money, project different notions of ideal households. In a suburban area of Paraná, Argentina, I find, many women recipients consider AUH to be a token of "normalcy" for their households while in an indigenous village in Yucatán, México, promoters present the Oportunidades program's money as a "harmonizing" and "evening" device, not only for households' livelihoods but for women's bodies as well. At a more public level, national development officials represent the Mexican program's transfers using a particular rhetoric of "co-responsibilities", "compromises" and other contractual tropes (see Agudo Sanchíz 2015, for other similar examples). In Paraná, however, government officials describe AUH with a language of "rights", "family allowances" and entitlements as they project a labor-based household. At a trans-national development level, the discourse of behavioral economics (Deeming 2013) of "incentives" more broadly represents the household as a small, nuclear but very plastic unit, regardless of local contexts.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.