Shame, social exclusion and the effectiveness of anti-poverty programmes

Shame, social exclusion and the effectiveness of anti-poverty programmes

A two year qualitative investigation of the nature and consequences of shame associated with poverty was conducted in seven settings located in rural Uganda and India; urban China, Pakistan, Korea and United Kingdom; and small town and urban Norway. The research presented results consistent with the thesis that the shame is always associated with poverty and that this may reduce personal efficacy and contribute to the duration and prevalence of poverty, a process that may be aggravated by policies that stigmatise recipients of social protection.

The research explores the contention that shame is a universal attribute of poverty which is common to people experiencing poverty in all societies. It investigates whether shame has internal and external components such that people are shamed because they are poor and feel shame due to being poor - and that both reduce individual agency and increase social exclusion.

The research initially seeks within different cultural settings to:

  • explore the social construction of shame (including its synonyms and antonyms) as expressed in public discourse
  • identify the cultural coincidence of shame and poverty as revealed in public discourse

Because personal experiences and public understanding of poverty are shaped by cultural expectations and resource constraints, the research will:

  • investigate how publics conceptualise poverty and people in poverty and whether in thought or deed they contribute to shaming people in poverty
  • explore how people directly experience poverty, social exclusion and shame and recognise connections between them