‘Ain’t I a human being?’: self-documentation of living in poverty in the face of the abandoning state

Dana Kaplan, Gal Levy, Avigail Biton, Riki Kohan-Benlulu, Helly Buzhish-Sasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How is life in social isolation seen from the viewpoint of people who experience persistent poverty? Given the systemic denial of self-representational agency from those living in poverty and the neoliberalisation of the welfare state, this article turns to those who remained invisible to either the media or the state during the pandemic. In line with current tendencies to prioritise the voice and lived knowledge of people in poverty, we provided our interlocutors with a specifically designed diary tool to allow them to share their mundane experiences and thoughts at their own discretion. Using these diaries of women and men in poverty, and complementary interviews, this article unpacks the ways our participants deal with and understand their everyday relationships with the absent state, mostly welfare and education. Based on the themes that emerged from our interlocutors’ journals, our findings reveal the Janus-faced abandoning/monitoring state that they routinely confront. We then demonstrate how they are constantly chasing the state, struggling to receive the support they lawfully deserve. At the same time, being subjected to practices of state monitoring and surveillance often results not only in mistrust but also in withdrawing almost altogether from the welfare services and social workers, and turning to alternative support networks. We conclude by offering two insights that accentuate, on the one hand, what we and our diarists already know, namely that they count for nothing. Still, on the other hand, the act of self-documentation itself reveals the representational agency of those brave diarists who refuse to forsake their worthiness as citizens.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)210-229
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Poverty and Social Justice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
supported by the Open University Research Authority under grant

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Open University Research Authority under grant #511591. Above all,we are thankful to the men and women who shared their thoughts,feelings and experiences for enriching us with their insights and perspectives.Your time and effort do not go unnoticed and we only hope that our work adequately reflects your experiences and stands up to your expectations.We also wish to thank the editors for their patience and interest in this work and for their and the reviewers’insightful comments.As always, we are solely responsible for any errors.

Publisher Copyright:
© Policy Press 2022.


  • Coronavirus
  • Israel
  • poverty
  • self-documentation
  • welfare state


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