`Managing' Poverty: Care and Control in Peruvian Street Children's Everyday Lives
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This dissertation examines the contradictory and complementary ways in which both neoliberal development and children's rights legislation shape national development and child poverty in Lima and Cusco, Perú. It uses childhood as a lens through which to more critically analyze struggle over meanings of development, poverty and appropriate uses of public space, looking at the ways in which children's rights and neoliberalism shape the regulation of poor children through a number of spaces, including social services, urban space, and street children's everyday lives. The project is based on 14 months of in-depth ethnographic research, participant observation and interviews with street children, as well as conversations with policy makers, educators, government officials and social workers. My research design was specifically concerned with both recognizing children as active producers of knowledge and with connecting their everyday experiences with broader systemic changes and processes of development and governance. Rather than focusing on either a macro-scale or a more localized analysis, it links the subjectivity of the poor both with political-economic shifts and discourses and with identity projects. By focusing on street children's everyday lives, this dissertation combines work on the governance of poverty, most of which has remained focused on the global north, with insights from critical development scholars regarding a need for a historical and sociopolitical account of poverty to actively politicize the ways in which Peruvian street children negotiate control, care and survival. Despite beliefs that children are outside of politics, childhoods play important roles in shaping national development and reproducing particular value systems. This dissertation considers how linking dominant development ideologies with the language of children's rights serves to mitigate critiques that development negatively affects the poor, reinforcing dominant development ideologies by allowing them to be packaged in a more socially acceptable way. It analyzes in what ways children's rights discourse provides moral justification for international intervention and the increased regulation of childhood based on Western models. In doing so, it contributes to critical poverty and development studies by linking narratives of development, childhood and rights with the maintenance of poverty. However, rights themselves are subject to competing interpretations and have also provided an important organizing tool for local social movements, such as Peru's child workers' movement. Additionally, children themselves are not simply passive in the face of increased state intervention. They `manage' their poverty in varied and often creative ways, engaging in spatial strategies to evade police and social workers' efforts to regulate their behavior, creating work opportunities for themselves in the street, and in some cases, even playing up their own poverty and vulnerability in order to more successfully street vend. There is a danger, however, in celebrating all acts of survival as resistance. Instead, many forms of children's agency represent contradictory resistance; while in some ways they create more opportunities for themselves or avoid increased state regulation their actions often lead to further marginalization or work to exclude them in other ways. This necessitates both a more nuanced analysis of resistance as well as a need to more closely examine the indicators being used to measure international development and urban `revitalization'. My project concludes with an in-depth discussion of how feminist care ethics can inform more inclusive rights-based approaches to development.
- Geography