Othering and the Poverty Discourse. Narratives from the Periphery of Mexico City

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:45 PM
Room: F204
Distributed Paper
María Cristina BAYÓN , Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico D.F., Mexico
Together with the analysis of the material basis of poverty, it is necessary to understand the symbolic and relational dimensions that contribute to create, maintain, and reproduce deprivation. This paper is based on ethnographic work conducted in an area of concentrated poverty in the periphery of Mexico City. Through in-depth interviews with  neighborhood residents exploring perceptions, experiences and life trajectories, the analysis attempts to dismantle the myths, stereotypes and stigmas on the poor and their places that underlie the public discourse of poverty.

From a sociological perspective, the paper seeks to understand how the poor coexist with, resist and adapt to a dominant discourse that stigmatizes and denigrates them, daily and systematically. It explores the processes and social mechanisms through which the poor are constructed as others (othering) and its implications for the experience of poverty, social policies and social coexistence. It examines how the dominant representations of poverty contribute to legitimize, consolidate and reproduce social distances, obscuring the political and economic nature of inequality, wage deterioration, job insecurity and the limited dynamism of the labour market. It is not only a question about the extension of poverty, but about the high levels of tolerance for inequality that characterizes the Mexican society, in particular, and Latin American societies in general.