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Differentiating Development

Differentiating Development: Beyond an Anthropology of Critique

Soumhya Venkatesan
Thomas Yarrow
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 258
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  • Book Info
    Differentiating Development
    Book Description:

    Over the last two decades, anthropological studies have highlighted the problems of 'development' as a discursive regime, arguing that such initiatives are paradoxically used to consolidate inequality and perpetuate poverty. This volume constitutes a timely intervention in anthropological debates about development, moving beyond the critical stance to focus on development as a mode of engagement that, like anthropology, attempts to understand, represent and work within a complex world. By setting out to elucidate both the similarities and differences between these epistemological endeavors, the book demonstrates how the ethnographic study of development challenges anthropology to rethink its own assumptions and methods. In particular, contributors focus on the important but often overlooked relationship between acting and understanding, in ways that speak to debates about the role of anthropologists and academics in the wider world. The case studies presented are from a diverse range of geographical and ethnographic contexts, from Melanesia to Africa and Latin America, and ethnographic research is combined with commentary and reflection from the foremost scholars in the field.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-304-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Anthropology and Development: Critical Framings
    (pp. 1-20)
    Thomas Yarrow and Soumhya Venkatesan

    Since the Second World War, concepts of ‘development’ have been used to describe and explain social and cultural differences on a global scale (Cooper and Packard 1997b; Mosse 2005). In the post-colonial world that began to emerge in the 1950s and 1960s, ideas of ‘progress’ with roots in earlier colonial and enlightenment thinking were reinvigorated. Embraced by Western leaders as well as by leaders of the newly emerging independent nations, development provided a utopian vision of a post-colonial future in which all could aspire to the socio-economic conditions experienced in the West¹. These ideas provided the rationale for the creation...

  5. CHAPTER 1 On Text and Con-text: Towards an Anthropology in Development
    (pp. 23-41)
    John T. Friedman

    This chapter addresses the fields of international development and anthropology in their relation to one another. The set of concerns that set it in motion implicate development practitioners and anthropologists alike. With respect to the former, it is difficult not to overlook the tendency of those working in the development field to offer rather simplistic, static and monocausal explanations for the shortcomings (or complete failures) of their projects. In this sense, and quite ironically so, many development practitioners explain away the limited effects of their projects by pointing a finger at the very conditions they set out to address. Accompanying...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Framing and Escaping: Contrasting Aspects of Knowledge Work in International Development and Anthropology
    (pp. 42-57)
    Maia Green

    At first sight international development and anthropology have much in common – a shared concern with social transformation in the world’s poorer places and similar histories as disciplines evolving through particular colonial and postcolonial conjunctures of knowledge and power (Escobar 1995; Ferguson 1997). The interdisciplinary sweep of development knowledge, combined with the emphasis in international development practice on evidence-based policy making, makes it perhaps surprising that knowledge produced by anthropology remains largely peripheral to development practice (Green 2005). This chapter considers some of the reasons for the problematic relationship between anthropology and international development, or more specifically, between the kinds of...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Intersection: Economies of Knowledge
    (pp. 58-62)
    Veena Das

    A major issue in both the chapters under discussion here centres around economies of knowledge and action in the fields of development and anthropology. Though there are some very interesting differences between the way Green and Friedman position themselves in relation to anthropology, both ask: Can the epistemic differences between anthropology and development initiatives be brought into a productive conversation? Or are the two incommensurable, separated by a criterial difference that no amount of good intentions can bridge? After all, as they note, both anthropologists and development experts call for political and social action to alleviate the conditions of the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Progress of the Project: Scientific Traction in The Gambia
    (pp. 65-83)
    Ann Kelly

    What place is made for science in development? How do the circulations of science – from laboratory to field station, metropolis to rural hospital – relate to the geography of social and economic progress? Over the past three decades, work in science and technology studies (STS) has unsettled understandings of experimentation, discovery and technological innovation (e.g., Barry 2001; Haraway 1991; Latour 1988). Following the production of ‘facts’ across institutional landscapes, ethnographers of science have illuminated the material practices, political negotiations and social conventions that underpin scientific legitimacy. These investigations have challenged theplacelessnessof science, demonstrating how specific localities matter – and matter...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Recursive Partnerships in Global Development Aid
    (pp. 84-101)
    Casper Bruun Jensen and Brit Ross Winthereik

    The notion of postdevelopment has become affiliated with a range of authors (Escobar 1995; Goldman 2005; Sachs 1992) who, inspired by postmodern critiques of knowledge/power, turned their attention to development practices. Rather than believing in development as an unquestioned good or viewing it as part of a global system of capitalism, these authors studied discourses of development to investigate how power and knowledge enmeshed in representations of the undeveloped. Although these were undoubtedly powerful and creative interventions, in a Latourian phrase (Latour 2004) they can be viewed as instances of ‘critique run out of steam’. This is obviously not because...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Intersection: A Gift Back – The Village and Research
    (pp. 102-106)
    Annemarie Mol

    The effects of science do not come after the facts. That something is altered (organized, staged, manipulated, experimented with) is a precondition for finding facts in the first place. Both preceding chapters bring this out very clearly. Science in action always also implies transactions, says Kelly. But which transactions? Studying a subject like ‘partnership’ may appear to depend on engaging in ‘partnership’, say Jensen and Winthereik. But what is ‘partnership’? Answering such questions is partly a descriptive task. The ethnographer tells about the transactions or partnerships that, say, biomedical malaria researchers, or Danish development professionals, engage in. What do they...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Beyond an Anthropology of ‘the Urban Poor’: Rethinking Peripheral Urban Social Situations in Brazil
    (pp. 109-125)
    John Gledhill and Maria Gabriela Hita

    The ethnographic study of the ‘urban poor’ has been intimately connected to public policy interventions. Although their nature has changed over time, in accordance with shifting state and international donor policies and the growing importance of NGOs, the practical ‘relevance’ of ethnographic enquiry provides a major justification for its funding. In some cases the ‘pitch’ is direct: ethnographic research (as distinct from surveys) can provide more nuanced accounts of the social reproduction of poor families, their demographics, health, modes of livelihood and other matters directly relevant to the scrutiny of individual family circumstances necessary in targeted conditional cash transfer programmes....

  12. CHAPTER 8 Extraordinary Violence and Everyday Welfare: The State and Development in Rural and Urban India
    (pp. 126-144)
    Amita Baviskar

    The notion of anthropology as cultural critique (Ferguson 1997; Marcus and Fischer 1986) is exemplified in the field of the anthropology of development, which over the last two decades has provided trenchant analyses of how power relations permeate projects of welfare. Critical ethnographies of development (e.g., Ferguson 1990; Mosse 2005) have examined particular projects in order to reveal how the workings of these initiatives draw upon institutional and political logics that often run counter to the official discourse of welfare. Some studies have focused on the discursive work performed by ‘development’ (Escobar 1995; Pigg 1992) and its role in legitimizing...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Intersection: The Anthropology of Development and the Development of Anthropology
    (pp. 145-148)
    Harri Englund

    ‘Development’ with a small ‘d’, Amita Baviskar suggests, relates to the historical process of capitalist accumulation and, if subjected to social scientific analysis, ‘critique as writ large in the lifeworld of subalterns’. Development with a big ‘D’, on the other hand, denotes the world of official programmes and projects to improve the lives of the poor. Baviskar’s injunction is for anthropologists and other academic knowledge producers to pay more attention to ‘the larger social and political context’ of Development. What has given rise to the injunction?

    To the extent that contextualization has long represented one of the most potent analytical...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Development, Participation and Political Ideology in a Lebanese Town
    (pp. 151-168)
    Michelle Obeid

    El Harid, the character of a cactus flower, was invented by a group of academic researchers who chose creative writing to reflect on their journey in a long-term development research project in one of the largest semi-arid towns of the north-eastern border of Lebanon. The choice of El Harid corresponds to the predicament of the land they studied. He is ‘the drylands personified . . . he is there but no one can see him; he has potential but no one is interested. . . . He has silently witnessed the modern-day scenes unfolding around him, and finally he cannot...

  15. CHAPTER 11 Kastom Ekonomi and the Subject of Self-Reliance: Differentiating Development in Vanuatu
    (pp. 169-186)
    Benedicta Rousseau and John P. Taylor

    A recent set of projects undertaken in Vanuatu present a critique of development as it has been practised in that country over the past two decades. Coming variously under the umbrella termskastom ekonomiand ‘self-reliance and sustainability’, these projects present indigenous economic practices, such as subsistence gardening and the exchange of ‘traditional’ wealth, as the logical, indeed natural way forward for this archipelago, which is relatively poor in both cash and exploitable resources. At first glance, this orientation suggests a problematic reification of ‘tradition’ as a resistant opponent to progressive modernity, and indigenous practice as the ‘alternative’ to a...

  16. CHAPTER 12 Intersection: Modes of Modernity
    (pp. 187-190)
    Norman Long

    A common thread of both contributions to Part IV is the emphasis placed on ‘people’s projects’ rather than projects designed and implemented by authoritative institutions that work within set policy templates and define their goals using standard ‘development-speak’ (such as ‘sustainable development’ and ‘community participation’). The chapters by Obeid and Taylor and Rousseau make a stand against developmentalist hegemony by building their analyses ‘from below’, combining careful ethnographic observation with actor narratives that reveal from the ‘inside’ how particular development initiatives instigated by local protagonists come into existence and impact on the wider social context.

    Both contributions resonate with my...

  17. CHAPTER 13 Effecting Development: Bureaucratic Knowledges, Cynicism, and the Desire for Development in the Indian Himalaya
    (pp. 193-209)
    Nayanika Mathur

    ‘You will find no development here. For that, go to the villages.’ Throughout fieldwork in government offices in India, my explanation for what I was doing there – seeking to understand the operation of an ambitious anti-poverty scheme – was met with astonishment, for development (vikas) is not something that bureaucrats, at all levels, see as happening in their own offices. It is something that takes place without. Bureaucrats were not alone in wondering why I was ‘wasting my time’ with them and their routinized, workaday lives when I should be out in villages speaking to the beneficiaries of the rural development...

  18. CHAPTER 14 The Transformation of Compassion and the Ethics of Interaction within Charity Practices
    (pp. 210-226)
    Catherine Trundle

    Charity and development are linked by the shared goals of intervention and improvement. Despite the similar intentions and effects involved in both practices, development and charity have largely remained separate objects of analysis in the social sciences. In this chapter I question such a division of academic labour, and show that the problem of critical distance associated with anthropology’s treatment of development is equally prevalent in current analytic engagements with charity. Furthermore, I argue, studies of charity offer insights that extend and broaden current debates within the anthropology of development by providing examples for how ideas and actions, and detachment...

  19. CHAPTER 15 Intersection: The Art of Balance, or Else . . .
    (pp. 227-232)
    Alberto Corsín Jiménez

    Ours is a society of balances, of equilibriums and resting points. The macro is balanced by the micro, the local by the global, the self by the other. Our liberal, plural society is a balanced society, insofar as we can accommodate new (minority) perspectives to net out and balance existing (majority) perspectives. Gift giving is balanced by debt honouring, and the donor by the beneficiary. Society is never outstanding: there is always a balance that tricks the social back into its proper whole.

    Balances evince symmetries and commensurabilities. In the language of liberal pluralism, the commensurable looks very much like...

  20. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 233-238)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 239-248)