Beyond the Culture of Poverty: Meaning-Making among Low-Income Population around Family, Neighborhood, and Work
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CitationBell, Monica Clarice, Nathan Edward Fosse, Michèle Lamont, and Eva Rosen. Forthcoming. Beyond the culture of poverty: Meaning-making among low-income population around family, neighborhood, and work. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism, ed. John Stone, Rutledge Dennis, Polly Rizova, and Anthony Smith. London: Wiley-Blackwell.
AbstractMeaning-making is an essential feature of social life: as humans make their way through their daily lives, they inevitably interpret themselves, their actions, those of others, and the environment that surround them. Thus, understanding social life requires attending to the cultural dimension of reality. Yet, when it comes to the study of low-income populations, factoring in culture has often been a contentious project. This is because explaining poverty through culture has been equated with blaming the poor for their predicaments. Lamont and Small (2008) and Harding, Lamont and Small (2010) have tried to move the debate forward by making a case for integrating culture in explanations of poverty. They have suggested that this requires going beyond the “culture of poverty” debate to incorporate concepts that cultural sociologists have developed and used over the last thirty years to understand the role of meaning making in basic social processes: concepts such as frames, narratives, institutions, repertoires, and boundaries.1 These concepts are analytical devices typically used to capture intersubjective definitions of reality, as opposed to normative positions. They have been useful for identifying a diversity of frameworks through which low-income populations understand their reality and develop paths for mobility. The present paper builds on these contributions by exploring the place of culture in studies of American low-income populations in three important areas of social life: family, neighborhood, and work. The three core sections of this paper describe scholarship that has incorporated culture concepts from cultural sociology, as well as other approaches to culture, to illuminate crucial aspects of social processes related to poverty considered as an explanans or an explanandum. Each section concludes with a few proposals for future research.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11385828
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