Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Adventures in Aidland

Adventures in Aidland: The Anthropology of Professionals in International Development

Edited by David Mosse
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 248
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Adventures in Aidland
    Book Description:

    Anthropological interest in new subjects of research and contemporary knowledge practices has turned ethnographic attention to a wide ranging variety of professional fields. Among these the encounter with international development has perhaps been longer and more intimate than any of the others. Anthropologists have drawn critical attention to the interfaces and social effects of development's discursive regimes but, oddly enough, have paid scant attention to knowledge producers themselves, despite anthropologists being among them. This is the focus of this volume. It concerns the construction and transmission of knowledge about global poverty and its reduction but is equally interested in the social life of development professionals, in the capacity of ideas to mediate relationships, in networks of experts and communities of aid workers, and in the dilemmas of maintaining professional identities. Going well beyond obsolete debates about 'pure' and 'applied' anthropology, the book examines the transformations that occur as social scientific concepts and practices cross and re-cross the boundary between anthropological and policy making knowledge.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-111-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-x)
    David Mosse
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction: The Anthropology of Expertise and Professionals in International Development
    (pp. 1-32)
    David Mosse

    This is a book about experts and professionals in the world of international development. It brings together ethnographic work on the knowledge practices of communities of development advisors, consultants, policy makers, aid administrators and managers – those involved in the construction and transmission of knowledge about global poverty and its reduction. Recently, anthropological interest in contemporary knowledge practices has turned ethnographic attention to professional fields as diverse as global science research (Fairhead and Leach 2003), international law (Riles 2001), finance (Riles 2004, Miyazaki and Riles 2005, Holmes and Marcus 2005, Maurer 2005), accounting and audit (Power 1997, Strathern 2000), academic...

  5. Chapter 2 Calculating Compassion: Accounting for Some Categorical Practices in International Development
    (pp. 33-56)
    Maia Green

    This chapter explores the practice of policy making in international development though an examination of the work that goes into the establishment and dissemination of core categories of the development imaginary – the targets of legitimate intervention. Following some key moments in the social life of a development category, that of children affected by HIV and AIDS, I show how policy coalitions and the relations which sustain them comprise ʹcommunities of practiceʹ (Wenger 1998) which come into being around particular objects of development. It is through these personal and professional networks, and the practices and institutions which sustain them, that...

  6. Chapter 3 Rendering Society Technical: Government through Community and the Ethnographic Turn at the World Bank in Indonesia
    (pp. 57-80)
    Tania Murray Li

    This chapter is not an ethnography, insider or otherwise. Rather, it is a close examination of the documents produced by social development experts who use ethnography in order to devise and justify programmes of intervention. Programme documents, as Mosse (2004) has shown, routinely occlude the debates, doubts and dilemmas of development practitioners. Nevertheless, they are consequential: vast sums of money are spent and vast numbers of people are caught up in new ways of doing things, on the basis of the narratives experts construct to connect a specified problem to a proposed solution. These narratives are central to the practice...

  7. Chapter 4 Social Analysis as Corporate Product: Non-Economists/Anthropologists at Work at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
    (pp. 81-102)
    David Mosse

    A considerable literature now deals with the disciplining, depoliticizing or governmentalizing nature of development policy, including its sociological concepts (e.g., Ferguson 1990; Harriss 2001; Li 2007). The claimed universal applicability of ideas such as participation, civil society, empowerment or social capital has been criticized, as have the political acts or external impositions legitimized by these terms. However, rather less attention has turned to the social and institutional work that policy ideas do at their point of formulation; to the institutional processes which reveal how the framing of policy-relevant concepts is socially embedded in highly localized processes, significantly shaped by the...

  8. Chapter 5 The World Bankʹs Expertise: Observant Participation in the World Development Report 2006, Equity and Development
    (pp. 103-122)
    Desmond McNeill and Asuncion Lera St Clair

    In this chapter we examine the challenge faced by the World Bank in addressing issues concerning ethics and human rights. We show how institutional forces in the organization constrain how it thinks and speaks about such matters. More specifically, we analyse the World Development Report (WDR) 2006 on Equity and Development – both the product and the process – and the parallel discussions concerning the World Bankʹs activities in the human rights field. This chapter therefore complements others in this volume, demonstrating how expert knowledge in the World Bank, and in this case especially economic expertise, shapes or ʹframesʹ ideas...

  9. Chapter 6 World Health and Nepal: Producing Internationals, Healthy Citizenship and the Cosmopolitan
    (pp. 123-138)
    Ian Harper

    In this chapter I consider two groups of professional health workers and draw links to the creation and circulation of authoritative knowledge. Both these groups, namely, expert foreign development advisers informing the directions of Nepalʹs health development processes, and locally-trained health workers who aspire to work in more ʹdevelopedʹ countries, have global imaginings and movement. I will use the idea of cosmopolitanism, space and place as a frame to tentatively start thinking through the conditions and circulation of people and knowledge in what might be broadly described as the field of ʹworld healthʹ. I aim to juxtapose these two different...

  10. Chapter 7 The Sociality of International Aid and Policy Convergence
    (pp. 139-160)
    Rosalind Eyben

    For a long time I thought of myself as both an anthropologist and development bureaucrat. By leaving my increasingly bureaucratic job at the head office of the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) in early 2000 to run its small country office in Bolivia, I hoped to revive the moribund anthropologist. I used to make regular visits of a few days to different parts of the country with no other purpose except, as I explained at the time: ʹto deepen our knowledge of the work of social and economic institutions at the local level, to understand more about the lives...

  11. Chapter 8 Parochial Cosmopolitanism and the Power of Nostalgia
    (pp. 161-176)
    Dinah Rajak and Jock Stirrat

    The international development industry turns over millions of dollars a year, employing thousands of people. It brings together aid personnel from all over the world, many of them working outside their home countries. For some, these foreign sojourns consist of short, fleeting visits: a week or two here, a month or so there. For others, much longer periods – in some cases their whole lives – are spent away from their ʹhomeʹ countries. And as part of this world of movement, people working in the aid industry move from one agency to another. Relatively few make their careers in one...

  12. Chapter 9 Tidy Concepts, Messy Lives: Defining Tensions in the Domestic and Overseas Careers of U.K. Non-Governmental Professionals
    (pp. 177-198)
    David Lewis

    The identities of development professionals and activists can usefully be analysed in the context of the dominant policy ideas and models within which their expertise is constructed and given value and meaning. Recent ethnographic research has used the life-history method to understand the longer term trajectories of people who cross between governmental and non-governmental careers and, more generally, to learn more about the motivations, working experiences and worldviews of activists and professionals (Lewis 2008a; Lewis 2008b).¹ In this chapter I consider the experiences of a particular subset of individuals in the U.K. who have built careers within two distinctive domains...

  13. Chapter 10 Coda: With Alice in Aidland: A Seriously Satirical Allegory
    (pp. 199-220)
    Raymond Apthorpe

    The recent emergence in anthropology-and-development of ʹthe ethnography of aidʹ (ʹaidnographyʹ)² has much to offer in depicting and interpreting the institutional culture of ʹAidlandʹ at large and the ʹexpert knowledgesʹ that inculcate and sustain it. Several aspects of these prove to be in some ways more virtual than real – hence the degree of virtual reality of Aidland. Social anthropologically-informed aidnography probes and ponders therepresentations collectivesandclassifications socialesby which Aidmen and Aidwomen say they order and understand their world and work, whether these are virtual or real.

    The Aidland in this account is thus a macro construct,...

  14. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 221-224)
  15. Index
    (pp. 225-238)