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Relational Geographies of Poverty across the Mediterranean
Relational poverty seeks to decenter mainstream approaches to poverty knowledge production. It asks us to rework the bounds of our thinking about poverty and focus on unequal power relations, how poverty is produced through institutions and practices and across complex geographies. It also calls for attention to the mutual production of privilege and poverty simultaneously and understanding the contour lines of global development discourses. Goal one of the sustainable development goals is to end extreme poverty using targets and metrics; an important tool in this paradigm is the poverty map. In this paper I juxtapose two case studies of poverty in Morocco and France. I deploy a relational poverty framework to explain the poverty map production process and the ways in which subjects, spaces and processes are assembled in order to fit within discrete, measurable and trackable targets that focus on income as the sole proxy for poverty. Based on interviews and fieldwork conducted in each country at the national and local scales, I argue that the current framing of poverty as a problem does little to reduce poverty but is actually a policy of dispersal. The poverty maps enable a way of knowing poverty that targets the concentration of poverty in particular places. By spreading and dispersing populations, the geographical targeting approach renders the poor invisible through a politics of displacement that fragments their communities and ignores how places have been reconfigured to fit within a post-colonial and capitalist world order. I use case studies at the municipal scale to demonstrate how local "poor" populations have responded to poverty dispersal policies and how their responses might offer an alternative politics of possibility.
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