Call for Proposals – Symposium on Global Poverty Knowledge November 8, 2019



In recent years, historians and anthropologists have generated a wealth of scholarship on the origins of modern social science, the colonial and wartime underpinnings of international development studies, the unexpected uses of population statistics by states and social movements, and the inextricable links between political economy and what Alice O’Connor termed “poverty knowledge.”  Much of this work, however, has focused on the centrality of Euro-American scientific innovations and Cold War rivalries in shaping international statistical regimes and human rights frameworks, and as foundational sources for thinking about global poverty. Such scholarly frames overlook important developments in large-scale sampling, household budget surveys, community healthcare, and economic planning pioneered outside Europe and North America. They also fail to examine the role that social movements (particularly those aimed against colonial rule, political dictatorship, ethnic violence, gender discrimination, and apartheid) have played in shaping broader global understandings of poverty, inequality, and oppression in the twentieth century.


This symposium seeks to broaden and deepen ongoing conversations by exploring cases of global and postcolonial poverty knowledge. How have intellectuals, activists, and government agencies debated and sought to revolutionize the construction of population statistics, economic indicators, and the concept of global poverty in the twentieth century? How did the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the New International Economic Order (NIEO), and proponents of dependency theory attempt to reframe understandings of poverty, equity, and development?  Rather than seeing economic and social expertise in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East as derivative of Western science, and instead of viewing the economy as a concept bounded within single nation states, how might historical and ethnographic attention to the making of poverty knowledge in developing countries shed light on South-South connections, including the interplay between local informants, transnational networks, NGOs, and governments?


The Fall 2019 Symposium on Global Poverty Knowledge at the CUNY Grad Center will bring together scholars working on these and related questions for a discussion of pre-circulated unpublished papers. We welcome proposals from researchers at any stage and in any discipline. We especially welcome papers advancing a historical, ethnographic, and theoretical understanding of the constraints and possibilities that have shaped contemporary economic thought; how facts were made to travel; the interactive nature of statistics in social life; the role of funders, field workers, and the observed in the making of surveys, modernization planning, military science, and the technopolitics of markets; the appropriation, reframing, and reinterpretation of poverty and inequality research by nationalists, trade unions, reformers, and others; and the political and technical effects of establishing what Alain Desrosières has described as the spaces of equivalence that enable the comparison of classes, citizenries, and groups.


With generous support from the Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) at the CUNY Graduate Center, this afternoon event is scheduled for Friday, November 8, 2019. The symposium will be advertised by ARC, and open to the public. Papers will be due 2 weeks in advance and shared with the organizers (Grace and Nima), the other presenters, and our discussant (tentatively Sanjay Reddy, Economics, The New School and Alice O’Connor, History, UC Santa Barbara). The format will most likely be a panel of presentations lasting no more than 12 minutes, followed by comments, discussion, and a reception. For more information, or to submit a proposal, please contact Grace Davie ( and Poornima Paidipaty ( Paper proposals should include paper title, a 300-600 word abstract, and a brief bio or CV. Alternative dates are possible, and presenters will be asked their scheduling preferences in the coming weeks.


About the organizers:


Grace Davie is Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies at Queens College, City University of New York. Her Ph.D. is from the University of Michigan. She is the author of Poverty Knowledge in South Africa: A Social History of Human Science, 1855-2005 (Cambridge University Press, 2015).


Poornima Paidipaty is currently a London School of Economics Fellow in Inequalities. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University. Her work examines the intersections of decolonization, governance and modern social science, including the history of large-scale sampling and state-building in Nehruvian India. Her book Tribal Nation (forthcoming) explores the history of anthropology in the subcontinent, and charts the relationship between military science, political culture and citizenship in India’s tribal borderlands.


About ARC:


Established in 2013, the Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) extends the CUNY Graduate Center’s global reach and prominence as an international hub of advanced study. Through its fellowships, ARC embraces the vital work of eminent scholars both within and outside of CUNY. These scholars enter a stimulating interdisciplinary environment in which they conduct their own research, access the GC’s research centers and institutes, and collaborate with doctoral students and other leading scholars. ARC also offers support to Graduate Center doctoral students from a range of disciplines, providing a platform for them to independently share and debate their research interests and practices. As an interdisciplinary space for collaboration, ARC currently focuses on the following four key areas of intellectual and public policy concerns: Immigration, Inequality, Multilingualism, and Global Cities. In addition, ARC partners with the Graduate Center’s forty research centers, institutes, interdisciplinary committees, and other academic initiatives to promote interdisciplinary research.

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