Eleanor Leacock (1922–1987) was a cultural anthropologist and prominent critic of the “culture of poverty” framework. This paper analyzes Leacock’s writings on the culture of poverty with the following questions in mind: How did Leacock’s critique of the culture of poverty framework evolve over time? What was her dissatisfaction with the available conceptual vocabulary and how was she struggling to grow beyond it? We illustrate the shift in Leacock’s critique of culture of poverty discourses by juxtaposing key writings from 1960 and 1980. We then offer an interpretation of the shift by discussing four central themes across her work: the we–they dichotomy, definitions of culture, a critique of research methods, and the real-world effects of the culture-of-poverty thesis. We conclude by drawing insights from the evolution of Leacock’s thinking to advance a critique of contemporary culture of poverty discourses, and to help develop an alternative conceptual vocabulary.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies