Re: Poverty

William Loker (wloker@FACULTYPO.CSUCHICO.EDU)
Thu, 17 Oct 1996 13:25:00 PDT

I just want to follow up abit on one aspect of Ron's comments on the
poverty thread ..
<<Much editing>>
Ron says:
We can show that there have
been and are humans living in what looks to us on first glance as
without much in the way of material goods, and yet who lead fully human
rich in kinship and other social interactions, rich in language,
humor, and folklore, which means that "poverty" is relative within a
economic, and political context (which may be quite far-reaching, in some

In the widely used ethnographic film, N!ai, biography of a !Kung woman,
N!ai states that "before the white people came [that is before they were
restricted to a reservation] we were not poor, we travelled where our
hearts wanted to go ..." This is a good point of departure for
discussing in a classroom the fact that poverty is a social and cultural
construction. In fact it is to a certain extent a "state of min." Were
the !Kung wealthy or non-por before reservation and poorer afterwards.
In fact, they have more access to material goods *after* reservation
than before (radios, blankets, etc). They are poor now because they have
been forcibly incorporated intoa stratified society, at the bottom of
that society. Now they know they are materially deprived, relative to
others inthat society. Hence they experience poverty. I guess that
notion of relative deprivation is still useful.

This is not to mention the "poverty of spirit" that may characterize
their new lifestyle (new at the time of that video) as they undergo the
depressing but oft-repeated processes of deculturation and acculturation.
Hopefully they will be able to retain significant portions of their
culture (worldview, satisfying social relationships, etc) to achieve some
sense of psychological satisfaction in this difficult period of
adaptation and resistance to the state.

Bill Loker
Lost my train of thought. I'll post this and look for your comments.

Ron Kephart
University of North Florida