Rewriting Race, Class, and the “culture of poverty:” Ethnographic Work by Eleanor Leacock, 1959–1980

Shirin Vossoughi*, Katherine Rodela

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-109
Number of pages7
JournalDiaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Rewriting Race, Class, and the “culture of poverty:” Ethnographic Work by Eleanor Leacock, 1959–1980'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this