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Accepted Paper:

'Screening' bodies, contesting worthiness and citizenship. The unofficial politics of social cash transfer programs in Colombia  


Daniella Castellanos (Universidad Icesi)
Blanca Zuluaga
Carolina Borda (FLACSO Ecuador)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores ambiguities surrounding unofficial conditions of the Colombian state cash transfer program "Familias en Acción" enacted by local female bureaucrats and beneficiaries and related to the medical screening of women bodies to deserve and be worthy of the economic benefit.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores some ambiguities surrounding some unofficial conditions and practices of the Colombian state cash transfer program "Familias en Acción" formulated by local female bureaucrats and widely followed by the mamitas - local (´mothers´) beneficiaries of the program in the Putumayo region, southwest Colombia. We analyse daily experiences of urban poor women in which ´worthiness´ is turned into a moral status of those women, serving a precondition for being seen as deserving economic benefit and moral recognition of being a 'good' and 'responsible' subject. These unofficial readjustment to the official state regulations is proudly proclaimed (by the bureaucrats) as an improvement of existing official rules of the programme, which simultaneously strengthen the hold of disciplining practices as medical screening tests (e.g. pap smear test) on the bodies of the beneficiaries but it is also framed as 'affectively' more caring and empathetic with the 'victims' suffering' and 'locally specific' conditions of their lives. Facing the prospects of the cuts in social programs recently announced by the current government, both bureaucrats and beneficiaries alike express their fears and indignation over the possible loss of what is perceived as a hard-fought gain in these womens´ lives whose citizenship (otherwise neglected) seems to rely on their healthy womb.

Panel P038
Human worth in austere times: transformative welfare regimes, human needs and public policy