History of the Foundation

View grantees in the Image Library

Symp 148 Group Photo
Ground: Carlos Forment, Melani Cammett, Jonathan Spencer Seated: Javier Auyero, Shalini Randeria, Leslie Aiello, Veena Das Standing: James Williams, Teresa Caldeira, Harri Englund, Hayder Al-Mohammad, Asef Bayat, Sylvain Perdigon, Valeria Procupez, Fiona Ross, AbdouMaliq Simone, Gerardo Leibner, Harini Amarasuriya, Filip De Boeck

September 20-26, 2013
Hotel Villa Luppis
Rivarotta di Pasiano, Pordenone, Italy

PUBLICATION: Politics of the Urban Poor: Aesthetics, Ethics, Volatility, Precarity. Current Anthropology (56), Supplement 11, October 2015.


Leslie Aiello (Wenner-Gren Foundation, USA)
Hayder Al-Mohammad (U. Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
Harini Amarasuriya (Open U. of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka)
Javier Auyero (U. Texas-Austin, USA)
Asef Bayat (U. Illinois-Urbana, USA)
Teresa Caldeira (U. California-Berkeley, USA)
Melani Cammett (Brown U., USA)
Veena Das - organizer (Johns Hopkins U., USA)
Filip De Boeck (U. Leuven, Belgium)
Harri Englund (U. Cambridge, UK)
Carlos A. Forment (New School U., USA)
Gerardo Leibner (Tel Aviv U., Israel)
Sylvain Perdigon (American U.-Beirut, Lebanon)
Valeria Procupez (U. Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Shalini Randeria - organizer (Graduate Inst. of International and Development Studies, Switzerland)
Fiona Ross (U. Cape Town, South Africa)
AbdouMaliq Simone (U. South Australia, Australia and U. Cape Town, South Africa)
Jonathan Spencer (U. Edinburgh, UK)
James Williams (Zayed U., United Arab Emirates)


We propose a symposium on the modalities of politics in the lives of the poor with specific reference to the urban form. The literature on the urban poor has been strongly shaped by and connected to public policy interventions that generated such internal divisions as those between the deserving and the undeserving poor, or between the proletariat seen as the engine of history and the lumpen proletariat, who are seen as those who are unable to engage in politics at all.  Concepts like social capital moved from academic theorizing to the policy world in the context of framing of policies to help the poor move out of what was called the “poverty trap”.  One of the consequences of this way of seeing the poor is that while agency is given to some kinds of poor, others are seen in policy discourses as populations to be managed through both policing and paternalistic interventions by the state. Though theoretical interventions such as subaltern studies did much to reclaim collective agency on behalf of those who are defined as subordinate, there was a concentration on moments of rebellion. As far as everyday life is concerned, there seems an implicit agreement with Hannah Arendt’s position that the poor are so caught in ensuring basic survival that they cannot exercise the freedom necessary for collective action that she calls the domain of politics. Thus following this kind of a conceptualization problems relating to the poo