This article explores the political consequences of four decades of consistent humiliation of the poor by the most authoritative voices in the land, and offers insights into ways that new movements are creating spaces for poor people’s political voices to surface and become relevant again. Our specific concern is the challenge that the current humiliation regime poses to those who seek to revive radical, disruptive and fractious anti-poverty activism and politics. By humiliation regime, we mean a form of political violence that maltreats those classified popularly and politically as “the poor” by treating them as undeserving of citizenship, rights, public goods or resources, and, importantly, that seeks to delegitimate them as political actors. Our article demonstrates the historical importance of authoritative voices in inspiring political unrest involving poor and working people, charts the depoliticising effects of poverty politics and governance since the 1980s, and highlights the new political possibilities that are surfacing now not just to defeat the very dangerous political forms of Trumpism and the new white nationalism but that seek as well to create something that looks like justice, freedom and equality. We insist on the importance of loud and fractious poor people’s politics and call on scholars to direct attention to the incipient political potentialities of poor people today.
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