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Jonathan Warren, "The Poison of Progress: Human Capital and the Discourses of Class."
WhenFriday, Feb. 2, 2018, 12 – 1:30 p.m.
Campus locationDenny Hall (DEN)
Campus room313
Event typesAcademics
Event sponsorsDepartment of Anthropology Sociocultural Colloquium Series
Target AudienceFaculty and Students

Development scholars have long concluded that one reason why East Asian economies have been more successful than Latin American economies is the different levels of investment in human capital. What they have been unable to explain, because of their aculturalism, is why. In this talk I offer an answer to this human capital riddle. Drawing on my comparative ethnographic study of Brazil and Vietnam, I map out the different discourses of class that I uncovered and spell out why I believe that these narratives are the reason for the varying degrees of investment in education, health care, housing, and transportation infrastructure. In Brazil, there is a racially inflected elitism that is very different from how the Vietnamese interviewed thought about class and the poor. I demonstrate that as a consequence of this social imaginary there has been a formidable anti-poor bias that has resulted in insufficient investments in capacity-building, irrespective of political regime or macro-economic policy. The implications for development are clear-cut: these elitist features of the Brazilian cultural terrain must be undone in order to ensure robust economic growth.…
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