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Adverse incorporation and social inclusion

Samuel Hickey


Despite some advances, the notions of ‘adverse incorporation’ and ‘social exclusion’ (AISE) remain somewhat marginal to the mainstream of poverty analysis, and framing poverty debates in these ways remains a contested activity. In Alice O’Connor’s (2006) terms, such work falls more under the heading of ‘knowledge about poverty’ rather than ‘poverty knowledge’.1 For example, although the presence of panel datasets and vulnerability assessments within poor countries are growing, as is the extent to which they inform the poverty diagnostics used to underpin development policy-making (such as poverty reduction strategy papers), this is only rarely the case for concepts associated with AISE. The increasingly strong and multi-dimensional datasets that exist are rarely translated into indices of social exclusion, and even the more progressive international agencies have abandoned initial attempts to index poverty problems in terms of social exclusion (UNDP, 1998). Within the more theoretical domains of development sstudies, concerns remain that the concept is an inherently ‘western’ one, unsuited to the realities of countries where mass poverty is the norm rather than the exception.

Nonetheless, an increasingly large space – both discursive and institutional – is emerging in international development within which such ideas can and have taken root. A key shift involves the apparently growing acceptance that persistent poverty needs to be thought about in relational terms, rather than as a straightforward absence of assets (Green, 2006; Harriss, 2007). Chronic poverty research has to some extent helped to enable this shift, by giving space to such discussions of relational poverty (Addison and Hulme, forthcoming) and also because the insistence that much poverty persists over prolonged periods strongly suggests that structural and relational forces are at play. Starting with this particular contribution, this summary outlines some of the key insights that can emerge when the optic of AISE research is used to explore chronic poverty, before briefly suggesting what this might mean for thinking and acting around chronic poverty.

This research summary was presented at the Social Protection for the Poorest in Africa - Learning from Experience, Entebbe, Uganda, 8-10 September 2008.

Publication Type(s)

Research Summary


adverse incorporation social exclusion


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