Free Money and the Ethics of Solidarity in Kenya
An anthropological study of the impact of cash grants on the economic dynamics and relationships among Kenya's urban poor
The idea of giving cash, no-strings-attached, to the poor has become popular in the 21st century. While hardly a radical form of global redistribution, these cash grants, often known as unconditional cash transfers, claim to offer a new type of care that is less paternalistic than other forms of assistance.
Caring Cash explores the caring practices that these grant experiments produced in the Nairobi ghetto of Korogocho. After receiving the grants, people there did not only look after themselves and their family, friends, lovers, clients and patrons, but also maintained the bonds that held them all together.
Putting his interlocutors' lives in conversation with ideas around care, ethics and economies, Tom Neumark argues that for those in the ghetto, caring for relationships is as important as the care that takes place within relationships. Seeing care in this way reveals the importance of managing one's proximity, distance and detachment to others, and raises questions about the disquieting decisions that allow people to live together amidst violence and poverty.
An open access ebook version of this title is available, here.
Tom Neumark is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Development and the Environment and the Institute of Health and Society, at the University of Oslo. He was awarded his PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge.
'Across the world, welfare systems are being remade in the image of 'basic income'. Tom Neumark powerfully intervenes in this debate by showing how Nairobi's grant recipients experience care and violence, freedom and bureaucracy. It has implications far beyond Kenya'- Kevin P. Donovan, Lecturer of African Studies at University of Edinburgh
‘Approaches a key laboratory of 21st century African experimentality, unconditional cash transfers, from the recipients’ end, attending to relations of care and, notably, care for relations, among Nairobi’s urban poor. Instead of simply critiquing the obvious limitations of such programmes, Caring Cash explores their ‘poetics of care’ and fragile ‘ethics of solidarity’, against the backdrop of a violently strained social fabric’- Paul Wenzel Geissler, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, Norway
‘Grapples with a contentious intervention in international development – cash grant programmes – in a caring yet critical way, rehabilitating this often-critiqued approach to poverty alleviation while unpacking its relative limited sustainability. A must read’- Chambi Chachage, Assistant Professor, Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada
‘A great introduction to the cash grant literature for students and practitioners, so much of it being programmatic and policy oriented, and removed from describing the work that cash grants actually do’- Sibel Kusimba, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of South Florida
Introduction: Grants and the Care for Relationships
1.The Ghetto: A Place of Refuge and Charity
2. Scoring the Poor
3. Under the Aegis of Mistrust
4. Detaching from Others, Surviving with Others
5. A Mother’s Care
140mm x 216mm