The shape of change: memetic analysis of poverty definitions from the 1970s to the 2000s
Misturelli, F. and Heffernan, C. (2012) The shape of change: memetic analysis of poverty definitions from the 1970s to the 2000s. Journal of International Development, 24 (Supplement). S3-S18. ISSN 0954-1748
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/jid.1770
The authors illustrate how notions of poverty are constructed around specific ‘memes’, or replicating units of cultural information, around which concepts and ideas develop and change. Three ‘memes’ characterising definitions of poverty over the previous years were identified: ‘basic needs’, ‘multidimensional’ and ‘deprivation’. The analysis illustrated the semantic space in which each term was utilised and to the extent it changed and modified over time by different actors. The results revealed how ‘memes’ compete with one another across the discourse. Within this competition, older concepts are almost never fully abandoned, but rather repackaged and reutilised. Thus, new definitions of poverty are less innovative than portrayed in the wider literature.