Wednesday, 23 January, 2012
ANT204H1S Anthropology of the Contemporary World
Lecture 3: Is Progress Inevitable? (Part 1) Transitioning Cultures and “Developing”
A. Case Study: The Thaba-Tseka Development Project
Lesotho is a small landlocked county in Southern Africa with a population of about 2
million. Received development assistance from 26 donor countries. Including 72
international non-government organizations (including CIDA).
Lesotho is an example of “failed” development.
In 1975 World Bank Issues a report on Lesotho to justify a seriries of loans to the
country – the help aforementioned.
o “Virtually untouched by modern economic development, Lesotho was,
and still is, basically, a traditional subsistence peasant society. But rapid
population growth resulting in extreme pressure on the land, deteriorating
soil and declining agricultural yields led to a situation in which the country
was no longer able to produce enough food for its people.”
The meaning of failed is incredibly important, worth arguing over.
The Oxford History of South Africa:
o “In 1837 the Sotho of Basutoland… had grain stored for our to eight years: in
1844 white farmers “flocked to them to buy grain. During 1872… (after
the loss of their most fertile land west of the Caledon) the Sotho exported
100, 000 muids [185-lb bags] of grain… and in 1877 when the demand for
grain on the diamond fields had fallen, ‘large quantities’ were held by
producers and shopkeepers in Basutoland.”
Why are these two accounts so different? The authors of the world bank report
could have possibly just been completely stupid and not have done the proper
research and etc. They could have just seen what they were trained were to see, as
everyone’s cultural world is sculpted differently depending on where they live.
Perhaps they were martyring the country in order to get investors to lend them
money. Kind of like a sob story. They are not considering the history that caused the
decline, which is kind of egotistical…
Could be a conspiracy for western domination, they could know what they are doing
The Meaning of “Lesotho” Poverty is naturalized.
For example, with Lesotho the reason they used was “rapid population growth” for
Lesotho’s supposed decline. There is no political or historical explanation, but a
“natural” one. Versus the explanation of the people’s with a political and economic
explanation for their decline.
If you have the ability to define the meaning of something, it probably means you
are in a particular position of power, typically one who identifies with one end of the
Lesotho was not in a position to define themselves, as they were not in a position of
B. Ideas of Progress
Progress is an seemingly innocent word, usually has such a positive reception and
On one end of progress there is the Primitive label and on the other side the
Sameness and difference on the same spectrum, people who are educated versus
uneducated, those who are underdeveloped versus developed, close to nature
versus not close to nature, modern versus post-modern, urban versus rural,
democratic and undemocratic, and so forth.
Perhaps the meaning of “progress” is dependent on who you are, where you have
“So poor and hungry I certainly was. But underdeveloped? I never though – nor did
anyone else – that being poor meant being ‘underdeveloped’ and lacking
human dignity” (Strestha 1995)
There is a flipside in which people don’t see progress as “march” to society or a
“march” in the right direction, but where “progress” takes on a negative connotation.
People close to nature were considered without reason, unable to control instincts
and so forth and we were viewed as those with reason, technology and restraint. All
of this based on the proximity to nature. Now that “progress”, or our idea of
progress, is harming the environment, the meaning of progress is almost flipped to
mean the opposite. Progress has become a regression.
Indigenous peoples considered “primitive” and close to nature are reified and
idealized (like Avatar) instead of acknowledging all the other aspects of “progress”
The notion of primitivity is “romanticized”
Vandana Shiva vs Jeffrey Sachs Jeffery Sachs: A few generations ago, almost everybody was poor, (unfinished
Vandana Shiva’s response: “This is a totally false history of poverty. The poor are
not those who have been “left behind”; they are the ones who have been robbed.
The wealth accumulated by Europe and North America are largely based on riches
taken from Asia, Africa and Latin America… Without the destruction of India’s rich
textile industry, without the takeover of the spice trade, without the genocide of the
native American tribes, without African slavery, the Industrial Revolution would
not have resulted in new riches for Europe or North