Anthropology of Development

Development should not be seen as a salvation practice from the so-called First World to the Third World.

Development should not focus on the Western discourse of rescuing the poor from the other world, maintaining the distance but creating universal rules and stereotypes around this third world, this other world.

The definition of development should be: a practice in social learning, not static and in constant evolution (Jan Nederveen Pieterse, 2001). Development must be, as Amartya Sen describes it, the expansion of choice and opportunities to promote local agency; and, as explained by Susanne Schech and Jane Haggis (2000), not only culture may be at the center of the understanding of development but also development itself has to be considered a cultural process.

The dichotomies intrinsic to development and gender studies must be deconstructed. I argue against labels and arbitrary categorizations that can be found in many International Development Organizations’ missions. There is a need to understand what Michelle Rosaldo (1980) names the “Problems of Universals” and disarm the categorical imperatives that promote mystifications in the world of the politically correct.

Kamala Visweswaran said in her work Histories of Feminist Ethnography (1997), that one of the main objectives of feminism might be the defeminisation of women or the declassification of women as women. This need to defeminize women is the same need to de-otherize the other and to eliminate the stereotypes associated to the First and the Third Worlds. This need to break down dichotomies is the true challenge of development studies.

 

Virginie Martin-Onraët

 

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