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Konferenz "Dimensions of Poverty"

07.06.2017 - 09.06.2017

Hosted by the Centre of Advanced Studies "Justitia Amplificata" and the Free University of Berlin


Dr. Valentin Beck, Prof. Dr. Stefan Gosepath, Prof. Dr. Henning Hahn, Dr. Robert Lepenies

Conference Discription

This conference seeks to assemble fresh theoretical perspectives on absolute and relative poverty within and between nations. It addresses questions in three sections which are aligned with three different dimensions of poverty research. These are: the normative categories of measurement and their uses in measurement practice; the blind spots and global asymmetries within academic poverty research itself; and the role of normative theorists in public debates on fighting global poverty through public policies and private donations. All three sections will feature keynote lectures by highly distinguished academics who have contributed groundbreaking work to the conference issues. Each section will also feature talks from experts who will be addressing an array of more specific research questions.


Absolute and relative poverty are still standardly measured and evaluated in monetary terms. Philosophers and development economists, beginning with Amartya Sen, have highlighted the shortfalls of one-dimensional monetary metrics. They argue convincingly that a multidimensional metric, such as the capabilities approach, must be applied in the measurement of both relative and absolute poverty. However, questions remain concerning the relation of capabilities to other competing multidimensional metrics as well as concerning their exact formulation and application. This section will address such general philosophical concerns, as well as more specific applied concerns, such as the challenges of developing a plausible and reliable multidimensional international poverty line which would allow researchers to count the number of individuals living in poverty worldwide. Participants are also invited to discuss whether political and legal processes for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be made more responsive to insights yielded by the academic debate on the measurement of absolute and relative poverty.

Research Asymmetries

This section will invite reflections on the challenges of poverty research itself. Sound scholarship on poverty, inequality and sustainability is immensely important. However, poverty research itself is not very globalized; whether in policy debates or on the editorial boards of highly regarded academic journals, voices and perspectives from the Global South are often sidelined. We will ask which areas of poverty research are dramatically under-researched, and what methods are under- and over-utilized. Does the state of poverty research raise questions of epistemic (in)justice? We will also explore the frames and narratives that have shaped poverty-related policy to date, and the challenge this poses for future research.

Theory & Activism

Many philosophers and normative theorists aim to reconcile their academic and political responsibilities. As a result, some political philosophers have become advocates for political change and ultimately political activists themselves. Is there any deeper or even necessary correlation between normative analysis and political engagement? In this section, participants are invited to raise questions of both principles and application regarding academic activism. The goal is not only to shed light on existing initiatives to fight poverty, but also to address more fundamental questions on academic activism and on the public role of normative theorists in general. We will therefore be asking academic activists to present their concrete initiatives, in order to reflect on the normative grounds, methods, and motives of their activities. Contributors are invited to share experiences and strategies for informing policies and creating the greatest impact.

Zeit & Ort

07.06.2017 - 09.06.2017

Haus der Kulturen der Welt
John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10
10557 Berlin