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Accepted Paper:

Food - scarcity - in Moldova? The changing roles of food in the calculation and perception of poverty in Europe  
Jennifer Cash (MPI for Social Anthropology and Nanyang Technological University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines changes and continuities in the calculation, portrayal, and perception of poverty in Moldova, with a focus on the various conceptualizations of food, to address the politics of poverty in Europe.

Paper long abstract:

This paper begins from an examination of how poverty has been calculated, portrayed, and perceived in Moldova. Since the early 2000s, Moldova has been dubbed "Europe's poorest country". In some ways, Moldova's poverty is nothing new; before the Soviet period it counted among both Europe's and Russia's poorest regions. But in the mid-twentieth century, it enjoyed the reputation of being a "flowering orchard" and "little piece of heaven". The country's changing reputation over the past two centuries does reflect empirical changes in living conditions, but just as importantly it reflects changing modes of measuring poverty. This is particularly evident as informants point to the weaknesses in current calculations of poverty in terms of individual income in relation to a "basket" of key food items; though people are indeed cash poor, they insist, "no one is starving"; high levels of household food production, sharing within families and beyond, and strong rural-urban social networks render the official statistics paradoxical. It is these changing measurements -- and the different uses of "food" within them - that constitute this paper's core. By examining the changing forms of "food" - as a correlate of land ownership and household productivity, calories and nutritional content, and as a unit of consumption dictated by taste and desire - the "politics" of poverty in Europe can be drawn into deeper anthropological scrutiny. At its broadest, such scrutiny can ask whether European poverty is ever commensurate with poverty elsewhere.

Panel P015
Food value and values in Europe: economic legacies and alternative futures in production and consumption
  Session 1