What is poverty?"The most commonly used way to measure poverty isbased on incomes. A person is considered poor if his or herincome level falls below some minimum level necessary tomeet basic needs. This minimum level is usually called the"poverty line". What is necessary to satisfy basic needsvaries across time and societies. Therefore, poverty linesvary in time and place, and each country uses lines whichare appropriate to its level of development, societal normsand values.“The World Bank Organisation
Absolute poverty is defined as the lack of sufficient resourceswith which to keep body and soul together. Relative povertydefines income or resources in relation to the average. It isconcerned with the absence of the material needs toparticipate fully in accepted daily life.The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee
Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices andopportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack ofbasic capacity to participate effectively in society. It meansnot having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having aschool or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to growone’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access tocredit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion ofindividuals, households and communities. It meanssusceptibility to violence, and it often implies living inmarginal or fragile environments, without access to cleanwater or sanitation.United Nations
Poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. Itincludes low incomes and the inability toacquire the basic goods and servicesnecessary for survival with dignity. Povertyalso encompasses low levels of health andeducation, poor access to clean water andsanitation, inadequate physical security, lackof voice, and insufficient capacity andopportunity to better one’s life.World Bank
Task:Write your own short definition of what povertymeans.
Representation of Poverty:Many of us already have a clear picture or stereotype in ourminds when the word poverty is mentioned.With a partner brainstorm what kind of image you alreadyhave. You may like to consider:• What a poor person looks like• What they wear• Where they live• What their lives are like
Dominant Stereotypes of Poverty• Often the poor and homeless are represented as ‘other’ – people who are not like us/ far removed from us – they live in far away places or from backgrounds unlike ours. This makes us think poverty cannot happen to us an makes us feel safe from it.
This removal of poverty fromour direct experience canmake us feel distant frompoverty, like it has nothing todo with us – it can make usfeel it is not our problem. Or,it can make us feel that it isour job to help those whoare living in absolute poverty– we feel superior to thepoor and, maybe, guilty.Helping may be as muchabout making us feel good,as about making them morecomfortable.
Most images of third world poverty are also negative:1. The Deserving Poor - the pitiable victim – often black, starving, suffering from disease and living in Africa – portrayed as helpless, possibly the victims of climate, corrupt governments or global economics… They need our help – our help is what will save them from death. This is negative because it emphasises that they are weak and inferior to us.
2. The Undeserving Poor – those whose poverty is deemed to be their own fault- the tramp/ the homeless alcoholic. It is negative because they are shown to have caused their circumstances themselves. This stereotype tends to make us feel justified in not helping them – we shift the blame onto them.
These stereotypes link to two theoretical approaches to poverty:1. Individualistic Theories – these see the cause of poverty lying with the individual – it’s their fault – encourages the attitude ‘you’ve only yourself to blame!’2. Cultural Theories – these see the cause of poverty lying in forces outside the individual and over which they have no control. It’s the government/ the forces of nature…. Which stereotype links to which view of poverty? What attitude to poverty do you think each encourages?
CASE STUDY 1: Slumdog MillionaireHow do these stills from the film represent poverty?
Task: Now we are going to analyse the opening sequence.• How does Boyle represent the poverty in Mumbai in this extract?• In what ways is his picture of poverty what you expect (stereotypical) and in what ways might it challenge your views (create an alternative representation)?• Why do you think Boyle chose to represent poverty in this way in the film?
Now consider what the narrative development suggests aboutpoverty:• Consider what happens to Latika, Jamal and Salim and what this suggests about those born into poverty• All three children are born into poverty in the slums of Mumbai but, later in the film, the slums are being cleared and wealthy businessman, like the gangster chief Javid Khan, are building expensive mansions and we see plenty of high rise apartment blocks – what might this be suggesting about the solution to Indias poverty?• What do you feel about the ideologies the narrative creates about poverty?
“In 2005, it was estimated thatcity held some 3,000 of theseslums housing a total of 6.8million people—roughlyequivalent to the population ofLondon.”(Green, Jen. Mumbai GlobalCities)
• Simon Beaufoy, who adapted the screenplay for Slumdog from the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup, made three research trips to India to interview street children.• He says he wanted to convey the slums "sense of this huge amount of fun, laughter, chat, and sense of community".
• Boyle used two genuine children from the slums to portray the young versions of Latika and Salim• He also used Loveleen Tandeen as his Indian co- director to try and ensure he got things right• Yet both director and script writer are British, writing for a Western audience• How realistic do you think this picture is?
If you read this article fromThe Mirror it seems tocorroborate the image Boylecreates in his film:http://www.mirror.co.uk/advice/travel/2009/06/06/mumbai-a-visit-to-the-location-of-slumdog-millionaire-115875-21418322/
Bride and Prejudice - Street SceneIt is a far cry from the image ofIndia usually portrayed inBollywood films – why do youthink many Indian-made filmschose to ignore the existenceof the slums and povertycompletely?
Is it fair?The Times called Slumdog Millionaire ‘poverty porn’ – what doyou think it meant?What do you think about the use of poverty in this film?
Does the following story alter your views at all?
Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle has come to the rescue of child stars Azharuddin Ismail and Rubina Ali after they were left homeless following a slum clearing drive by Mumbai authorities.Boyle has bought a new home for Ismail, who played young Salimin the Oscar winning film, and is planning to do the same forRubina.After the huge success of Slumdog Millionaire , the filmbosses had established the Jai Ho Trust last year (08) to help fundtheir education. However, the kids recent plight compelled Boyleand producer Christian Colson to fly to Mumbai this week to seehow they could help the young stars.
During filming, Azza, the Mumbai boy who wascast as Jamals brother Salim, had his housebulldozed by the city council a commonoccurrence in the slums where much of theshoot took place. The crew found him sleepingon a car roof.The three youngest child leads, who were allcast from the Mumbai slums, are now havingtheir schooling funded by the films producers.With the promise of a trust fund should theypass their exams at 16.Anil Kapoor, who plays Prem Kumar, the hostof Who Wants to be a Millionaire? inSlumdog, donated his fee to Plan India, a childdevelopment NGO in Delhi, devoted to raisingawareness about child abuse, trafficking,education and rehabilitating deprived children(The Independent)
• Do you think a film can ever change a person’s view on an issue?• Do you think Slumdog manages to achieve this?• You may like to refer to Uses and Gratifications theory to help you answer this!
CASE STUDY TWO: Save The Children VideosWe will now look at two videos embedded in Save theChildren’s UK website.Aftins StoryFill A Truck: the Long Journey to save ChildrenAnd an ad for the East Africa Appeal on YouTube:Advert for Save The Children East Africa Appeal
• How do both clips represent poverty? Is it what we expect – the stereotype – or is it something different?• Identify the techniques used to create this impression.• How are we positioned to view these people? How is the West represented in this video?• What ideas about poverty does this representation link to?
Why do you think Save the Children haveadopted this representation?How might this tie in with their mission:Our MissionSave the Childrens mission is to inspirebreakthroughs in the way the world treatschildren, and to achieve immediate and lastingchange in their lives.
CASE STUDY THREE: Self Help Africa VideosLook at the Self Help Africa website and try and establish whattheir mission is and watch the video below: Spend a Minute in Africa
‘Self Help Africa works with ruralcommunities to help themimprove their farms and theirlivelihoods.Our mission is to empower ruralAfrica to achieve economicindependence - and on a continentwhere up to 75% of people rely onsmall-scale agriculture for theirsurvival, we believe that it is onlyby tackling the challenges faced byrural farming communities thatreal and sustained economicprogress can be made across sub-Saharan Africa.’
• How is poverty represented in this charity video?• Is it what you expect or is it an alternative representation?• What elements create this image for us?• What ideologies about poverty does it support?• Why do you think it has chosen to represent poverty in this way?• Out of the two charity videos, which do you prefer and why? Is it a case or one or the other or do we need both representations?
Final Reflection:• All three case studies represent poverty for a Western audience. All three propose very different roles for the West. What are they?• Do you think an issue can ever be represented in a truly fair and objective way?• What sort of factors govern the way an issue is represented?