The Politics of Making Poverty Visible in Brazil and Mexico


Thursday, October 3, 2019, 12:00pm


L-P-9 Malkin Penthouse, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK Street

Speaker: Luciana de Souza Leão, LSA Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellow, Sociology Department, University of Michigan
Moderator: Fernando Bizzarro, PhD student, Government Department, Harvard University; Graduate Student Associate, DRCLAS

aerial view of BrazilIn this talk, Luciana de Souza Leão aims to refine James Scott’s argument about legibility (1998) by providing an in-depth, comparative analysis of how Brazil and Mexico rendered poor individuals visible in order to implement conditional cash transfer programs (CCTs). She shows that differences between the two CCTs relate to their political legitimation strategies, and had unanticipated, long-term effects for the implementation of the two programs. Her findings are based on the analysis of approximately 10,000 pages of official documents, 14 months of fieldwork in Brasília and Mexico City, and 100 in-depth interviews with political and bureaucratic elites in Brazil and Mexico.

Luciana de Souza Leão is a political and comparative sociologist with broad interests in knowledge-making processes, social inequalities, and the state. Her most recent work has appeared in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Historical Social Research, International Journal of Sociology, Theory and Society, among others. She is currently working on a book project, Experimenting on the Poor: The Politics of Social Policy Evaluations in Brazil and Mexico, which examines how politics, measurement practices, and expertise shape anti-poverty programs in Latin America. She holds a PhD in Sociology from Columbia University, a MA in Sociology and Anthropology from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a BA in Economics from Puc-Rio.

Fernando Bizzarro is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Government at Harvard and a Graduate Student Associate to the DRCLAS. A political scientist from Brazil, he researches the nature, causes, and consequences of democracy and political parties in Latin America.