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.
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.