FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2012: Development as Discourse
Development as discourse:
The perceptions of what it means to be developed is a reflection of
Is development theory meeting its objectives? Post development emerged
and said that modernization was considered to be a failure by the
development community (feminist critiques about development negatively
affecting women, Marxist critiques that projects were helping rich and not
poor countries, etc.) there was an increase of social movements
(environmental, indigenous) as a result of the impacts of these policies. Post-
development theory arose in the context of an academic movement of post-
structuralism and post-modernism.
Influence of post-modernism: a philosophical reaction to modernism
(modernism studying empirically, objective; whereas postmodernism
argues it is not objective).
Language and concepts in construction of social reality—they act to
create our understanding of the world and how we give meaning to
o Ex. By labeling it as a forest, you think of it in one way, but
thinking of it as a farm would give you very different perceptions
of the people and what they do. Different perceptions =
Knowledge as socially constructed—not neutral. It is situated in
historical and cultural settings. How we see the world and how we
understand truth depends on culture, context, time and place. It
depends on the situation. Truth and reality are different for different
people. People have different knowledge do to perception, how they
understand the world.
o Ex. if there is a problem in rice yields because farmers have less
farm resources, from certain perspectives this is seen as a
scientific issue (we need to increase yields with new formulas).
From a religious farmer’s perspectives, they would consider the
spirits in the land as significant and their solution to increase the
rice yield could be rituals, praying, etc.
Development as discourse—how we speak about it, represent development
and developing countries influence reality. For example, an agricultural
minister and a religious leader would see how to proceed in development very differently. Different representations of the environment are significant
What does development do in practice?
Talking about development as discourse makes it a space where certain things
can be imagined.
How people in developing countries are treated is partly due to how they are
represented. Important of texts, images, concepts in creating “development
objects.” Images create certain ways of thinking or issues as problems as a call
Ex. the picture we associate with poverty and hunger of an African
child to demand an intervention.
Discourse and representations influence action—important for what they do
(as scripts and ideologies for action). It motivates actions and interventions
about how to achieve progress.
Discourse and actions
Colonial discourse/ the “white mans burden”: the idea that colonial
governments represented people as backwards and in need of
intervention. This representation justified a kind of intervention and
governance by outsiders and legitimize interventions and constructed
how people thought about society. Colonization was seen as beneficial
and this discourse overlooked the negative impacts. If people weren’t
represented as backwards, they likely would not have been able to
justify colonization in the same way. In order to justify this control,
they had to intervene in certain ways (humanitarian goals—health
care, etc. for the betterment of society).
De-politicization—development as something that can be controlled
and managed. Development is represented as politically neutral,
ignoring relations of power that underlie these interventions, etc. In
order to justify this control, they had to intervene in certain ways
(humanitarian goals—health care, etc. for the betterment of society).
Hegemonic theory: people take an idea for granted and assume it as
truth because it is dominant. It emerges when powerful actors don’t
have to rely on force to get people to accept that what they are saying
is good. Ideas become exempted from thought and assumed as right.
They argue certain theories of development have become
dominant/hegemonic—ex. the idea that economic growth is
development and progress. o Ex. we accept without questioning that going to school is good
and we should all go, without thinking about it.
o Ex. Karen’s example that the people in Laos now think that
James Ferguson- wrote “the Anti-Politics Machine” in the late 1990s
using a post-development analysis to understand a project being
represented in Lesotho.
o Development representations of Lesotho: he looked at
documents for CIDA, etc. that represent Lesotho as an enclos