Human Development and Contextual Adversity: Role and resources of culture
Whilst extreme poverty has been cut by more than half since 1990, more than 3 billion people – or half of the world’s population – live on less than 2.50 US dollars a day. Economic growth has not trickled down to all and importantly, it has not translated into human development. Poverty persists on a mass scale and in the Global South in particular, it is accompanied by inequality, violence and high levels of stigma towards the poor. In this talk, I draw on cultural, social and developmental psychology to outline a socio-cultural psychology of human development under contextual adversity. I focus on the interactions between human development and public spheres, in particular how the dynamic of wider societal representations feeds processes of self and community development. Based on research conducted in the ‘favelas’ of Brazil and the ‘barrios’ of Colombia, I introduce a conceptualisation of context as an interaction of proximal and distal layers that include the extended sociality of groups, institutions and socio-cultural meanings. I propose an approach that avoids a ‘deficit’ model of adversity and emphasises instead agency, resilience and the resources of culture to both enable and disable developmental trajectories. Rather than homogenising adverse contexts and describing them abstractly, we need a ‘thick description’ of selves in context to explain the multiple developmental pathways that are produced as humans actively negotiate, make sense and co-create themselves and their cultural environments.