Dissertation Abstracts

Exclusion and Agency. A Gender Analysis of Cash Transfers in Argentina and Chile (2002-2008)

Author: Tabbush, Constanza , ctabbush@gmail.com
Department: Institute for the Study of the Americas
University: University of London, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Prof. Maxine Molyneux
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Gender , Poverty , Argentina , Chile
Areas of Research: Women in Society , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy , Social Transformations and Sociology of Development

Abstract

Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) are the latest recipe for fighting poverty and exclusion in Latin America. The gender and development literature has concentrated its efforts on revealing the gendered assumptions that underpin policy formulation. Feminists have argued that CCTs reinforce maternal constructions of identities by positioning women as intermediaries of policy outcomes centred on children's human capital formation. Gender perspectives have focused on problematising the terms of women's incorporation into these state policies. They have, however, left unexplored the meanings that women attribute to their experience of the exclusionary processes tackled by CCT programmes. By adding a focus on women's agency in contexts of poverty, this thesis presents two contrasting perspectives: that of the women themselves, and that of the state.

The analysis of CCT policies in Argentina with reference to Chile, and the qualitative studies of two low income neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile, reveal that while state programmes define women's identities as maternal, they restrict women’s possibilities of agency to their mothering in a context of poverty. Interviews show that, for women, poverty is less about the material needs of their households than about violent power relations that sideline their voices from public deliberative processes. Yet, these problems that women identify with their sense of social exclusion are not acknowledged in policy statements about poverty and social exclusion, and become what I called ‘silenced narratives’. It is argued that how poverty reduction and gender relations are linked in each location result in that these narratives acquire different formats in both countries. The experiences of women that become ‘silenced narratives’ may refer in Chile to gender power relations, whereas in Argentina, they involve dynamics of social violence.

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