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Poverty and Shame is a body of international research examining the psychological and social impacts of living in poverty and exploring how anti-poverty policies can promote and enhance human dignity.

Funded by ESRC & DFID, the project is a comparative international study across seven countries, examining Amartya Sen's contention that shame is universally experienced by those living in poverty. Shame is believed both to reduce a person's agency and increase social exclusion, processes which, in turn, are thought to curtail economic development. Anti-poverty policies, therefore, may alleviate or conversely exacerbate these processes depending on how they engage with poverty-related shame. If shame in relation to poverty is indeed universal, applying in both the global North and South, this enhances scope for reciprocal policy learning and creates a possible basis for building popular support to tackle global poverty through promoting human dignity. 

Since relatively little is known about the associations between poverty and the social emotions (such as shame, dignity, disgrace and honour) across different cultures, the research is largely investigative. It is also inherently comparative, searching for similarities and distinctions across different global contexts including: rural Uganda and India, urban China and UK and small-town Norway, supplemented by externally funded doctoral work in urban Pakistan and small-town South Korea.

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Department of Social Policy and Intervention

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We are grateful to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for their support through the University of Oxford’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

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