May 1 – Brown Day – Sarah Elwood, Dept of Geography, Univ of Washington
L-110 Carlson School of Management
Title: “The Poor are Us”: Middle class poverty politics in Buenos Aires and Seattle
Abstract: This paper explores middle class poverty politics in Seattle and Buenos Aires in a period of recovery from deep neoliberal economic crisis, drawing from collaborative research by an interdisciplinary and international research team (Santiago Canevaro, Sarah Elwood, Victoria Lawson, Nicolás Viotti). We read the two cases in relation to one another to examine what sorts of class subjects emerge in the US – typically theorized as remaining deeply entrenched in neoliberal governance, and Argentina – often conceptualized as post-neoliberal. Specifically, we investigate the poverty politics of middle class residents engaged in anti- or pro-poor activism against homeless encampments or squatter settlements in urban neighborhoods. Rooted in relational poverty theory, we conceptualize these forms of activism as relational practices through which class subjectivities are reiterated or challenged through interactions across class lines. Our comparative analysis examines: i) how middle class actors frame their differences or alliances with poorer residents and ii) how these framings of middle class selves and poorer others are expressed in poverty politics and cross-class antagonisms or alliances. We find that while poverty is a key site for the making of middle class actors as individualized, aspirational, normative subjects in both countries, the poverty politics of middle class actors are not a foregone conclusion. Cross class alliances do arise, pointing towards the potential for alternative readings of class difference.
Held each spring, Brown Day brings together friends and colleagues for a noon time potluck lunch, an afternoon lecture by a prominent visiting Geographer, and an evening banquet that celebrates the achievements of the past year, and recalls our history, which spans over three-quarters of a century.
The day is named in honor of Ralph Hall Brown, eminent faculty member in our department from 1929 to 1948, and author of Mirror for Americans (1941) and Historical Geography of the United States (1948).
The evening program includes an awards ceremony that recognizes the achievements of our undergraduate and graduate students. It also offers news from colleagues afar, entertainment and humor, and the results of our annual photo contest.