Accepted paper:

Managing poverty? Targeting, graduation and the politics of entitlement


María Gabriela Palacio Ludena (Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper provides a politically-informed analysis of the conditional cash transfer model, problematising its impact on social and power relations. It focuses on the normative foundations of the Bono de Desarrollo Humano programme and how these inform the politics of entitlement and claim-making.

Paper long abstract:

Despite a rhetoric of inclusion, the recognition and expansion of social rights has remained for the most part unaddressed by conditional cash transfers. This paper focuses on the most important cash transfer programme in Ecuador, Bono de Desarrollo Humano (BDH). The granular configuration of the BDH, transitory and targeted at households, makes it difficult to assemble a collective experience of social protection, arguably obscuring recipients' fragile and intermittent social rights. This paper offers a politically-informed analysis of the politics of entitlement and claim-making accompanying the BDH, where the position of recipients vis-a-vis the state appears constrained by notions of self-reliance and individualism informing cash transfers. It focuses on the norms that dictate targeted social protection and how these enact different forms of social membership and recognition of distributive claims e.g. salaried workers vs 'poor' mothers. Documentary analysis and fieldwork data evince how the transitory and targeted configuration of the BDH next to the emphasis on 'graduation' (or rather, exogenous exit) has hindered the claim making process, in a policy context where poverty is approached as a technical, and therefore non-political, problem. In such context, targeting has turned into a demobilising mechanism as social protection is individualised and not rights-based. Furthermore, the segregation of the population into those deserving and undeserving of entitlements and the technical lingo used in the selection of recipients, contribute to the depoliticisation of poverty, discouraging recipients from engaging in critical politics to gain visibility and recognition of their rights.

panel M5
Understanding social protection as technologies of social ordering and reproduction within contemporary development