Hegemonies are not totalities! Repoliticising poverty as a site of resistance

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Taking inspiration from the idea that hegemony is always constructed and can always be challenged, and that it is a central part of politics to contest common sense views, the authors contest common sense ideas of poverty, which have naturalised it, and represented it as a result of individual flaws rather than of a system that is premised on inequality. They argue that poverty is relational, produced through intersecting power relations – including of race, caste, class, identity and gender – and seek to counter the theoretical closures in current, ‘speakable’ poverty knowledge. A key way to challenge these ideas is through ‘unspeakable’ poverty politics, as enacted by a number of groups discussed here, mostly composed of excluded, illegible subjects and their allies, who refuse existing political and economic orders and systems of social valuation. The authors also look at anti-poverty organisations that work across difference and geography. They argue that it is important to analyse how ‘thinkability’ obscures political imaginations and limits potential alliances. Unthinkable politics can help challenge the categories and norms through which neoliberal governance is maintained.

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Soundings 65: Populism and alliances