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Wednesday 16 May 2012

Anthropology and Development

Research with policy and practice: Applied aspects


Some of the anthropologists were interested in using their knowledge for practical purposes from the beginning. The branch of the discipline became known as ‘applied anthropology.’ From the 1930s onwards, many academic anthropologists collaborated – formally or informally – with professionals engaged in public administration, social work and agriculture. One of the main areas in which these ‘applied’ anthropologists have long been active is that of development. The relationship between anthropology and development has long been one fraught with difficulty, ever since Bronislaw Malinowski advocated a role for anthropologists as policy advisers to African colonial administrators and Evans-Pritchard urged them instead to do precisely the opposite and distance themselves from the tainted worlds of policy and ‘applied’ involvement (Grillo 2002).

Development: definition and context

Development refers to a process of change through which an increasing proportion of a nation's citizens are able to enjoy a higher material standard of living, healthier and longer lives, more education, and greater control and choice over how they live. Development is generally believed to rest on rising levels of labor productivity, which can be achieved through the application of science, technology, and more efficient forms of economic and managerial organization. Virtually all government leaders profess commitment to promoting development understood in this way. Leaders, policy makers, and academics disagree, however, about the relative importance of technical, economic, and political barriers to development and hence about priorities in achieving it.
‘Development’ in its modern sense first came to official prominence when it was used by United States President Truman in 1949 as part of the rationale for post-War reconstruction in ‘underdeveloped’ areas of the world, based on provision of international financial assistance and modern technology transfer. Development has subsequently been strongly associated primarily with economic growth. However, there has also been a growing recognition that while the well-being of an economy may form a precondition for development it is not a sufficient one, and that attention too has to be paid to issues such as income and asset redistribution to reduce inequality, support for human rights and social welfare, and the sustainable stewardship of environmental resources. The Human Development Index developed by the United Nations Development Programme at the start of the 1990s has attempted to address such concerns, at least in part, by combining gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, life expectancy and a measure of educational attainment.
Arturo Escobar argues that as a set of ideas and practices ‘development’ has historically functioned over the twentieth century as a mechanism for the colonial and neo-colonial domination of the south by the north.[i] The use of the term ‘development’ has historical predisposition. Some of the most important of these are shifting global relations after the World War – II, the decline of colonialism, the cold war, the need for capitalism to find new markets, and northern nations’ faith in science and technology (Escober, 1995). Those using the term and working within development institutions are therefore helping to reproduce neo-colonial power relations even while many believe themselves to be engaged in processes of empowerment or the redistribution of the world’s riches.

Theories of development:

Like any major fields of social sciences, development theory too was dominated by grand theories. However, like other grand theories none of the development related theories have stood up well to the onslaught of 1990s post modernism. Today, there is no single theoretical model which is commonly used to explain development, nor is there any one solution to the problems of underdevelopment. Indeed, contemporary understandings tend to draw from a variety of theoretical sources and suggest a variety of strategies.


Modernisation theory is a collection of perspectives which, while at their most intellectually influencial in the 1950s and 1960s , continue to dominate development practice today. As Norman Long puts it, modernisation visualises development in terms of progressive movement towards technologically more complex and integrated forms of modern society (Long and Long, 1992). The theoretical backdrop is essentially evolutionary in nature. Countries are envisaged as being at different stages of a linear path that leads ultimately to an industrialised, urban and ordered society. Much emphasis is put on rationality, in both economic and moral sense. The approach is rooted from 19th century theorists such as Morgan, Tylor and 20th century theorists like Durkheim, Simmel and more recently such theorists like Rostow (1960) where it is argued that the forms of growth already experienced in the north are taken as a model for the rest of the world.
Modernisation as both a theory and a set of strategies is open to criticism on virtually every front. Its assumption that all change inevitably follows the western model is both breathtakingly ethnocentric and empirically incorrect, a fact which anthropologists should have little difficulty in spotting. Indeed, anthropological research continuously shown that economic development comes in many shapes and forms, we cannot generalise about transitions from one type of society to another. While modernisation theorists argue that local cultures and peasant economies are resistant to change, several studies by Ahmed (1992), Long (1992), Mair (1984), Hill (1986) have found that these societies do change, and they do know better what is good for them, which calls for taking local understanding in development projects.
The most fundamental criticism of theories of modernisation, however, is that they fail to understand the real causes of underdevelopment and poverty. 

Dependency theory:

While modernistaion theory fails to understand the real causes of underdevelopment and poverty, one of the first groups to explain these issues in terms of political and historical structures was the Economic Commission of Latin America (ECLA). With the work of A. G. Frank (1969), the notions of dependency and underdevelopment gains immense importance. Drawing from Marxist concepts of capitalism as inherently exploitative, dependency theorists argue that development is a essentially unequalising process : while rich nations get richer, the rest inevitably get poorer. One model which i used to describe this process is that of the centre and periphery (Wallerstein, 1974). This represent north as the centre, or ‘core’ of capitalism, and the south as its periphery. Through imperial conquest, it is argued, peripheral economies were integrated into capitalism, but on n inherently unequal basis. Supplying the raw materials, which fed manyfacturing industries in the core, peripheral regions became dependent upon foreign markets and failed to develop their own manufacturing bases.
Dependency theory therefore, understands underdevelopment as embedded within particular political structures. I this view the improvement policies advocated by modernisation theory never work, for they do not tackle the root causes of the problem. Rather than development projects which ease the shor-term miseries of underdevelopment, or support the status quo, dependency theory suggests that the only solution possible is radical, structural change.
One of the main problems with dependency theory is that it tends to treat peripheral states and populations as passive, being blind to everything but their exploitation. While it is certainly important to analyse the structures which perpetuates underdevelopment, however, we must also recognise the ways in which individuals and societies strategise to maximise opportunities, how they resisit structures which subordinate them and, in some cases, how they successfully embrace capitalist development.

The age of post-modernity:

Intellectually, post-modernism involves he end of the dominance of uitary theories of progress and belief in scientific rationality. Objective truth has been replaced by emphasis on signs, images and the plurality of viewpoints: there is no single, objective account of reality, for everyone experiences things differently. Postmodernism is thus characterised by a multiplicity of voices.
In the abandonment of generalised and deterministic theory, there is an increasing tendency to focus upon specific groups and issues, e.g. women, the landless, the displaced, etc., a more reflecive attitude todards aid and development and a new stress upon ‘bottom up’, grassroots initiatives. These perspectives were already emerging in the 1970s, when stress upon basic needs rather than macro level policy aimed at industrialisation, was increasingly fashionable within aid circles. Instead of being radical, these strategies are inherently populist. As part of general trend which places people more directly on the developmental stage, they are closer to liberal ideologies of individualis,, self reliance and participation.

Theories of Development (brief introduction, meant for my college students)

Development practices: a historical overview

With the increasing recognition of the importance of taking a more context specific approach of development approaches of development has been changed. For example, the world development report 2000/2001 points that “not only development and inequality are global issues, but also that measures undertaken since World War II have failed to deliver broad based development in many developing countries.
However, the present approach of development, inspired by the sentiment of postmodernism has gone through a number of stages.
Before 1950s:
The key issue was the likely political and economic trajectories of underdeveloped or developing countries then emerging from colonial rule. The approach of nation building through comparative politics and law was mostly emphasised. The result was the rapid development in institutions comparable across the globe.
 1950s and 1960s:
Modernisation theory, a specific way of thinking about development, gained credence with many Western governments, international financial institutions (IFIs) and analysts. It was based on an assumption that problems of poverty and human development would be solved by adequate investments in physical capital and infrastructure. However, despite the injection of huge quantities of foreign aid in many developing countries, many didnot see much in the way for development. It was increasingly recognised that internal policies and politics are responsible for the gap between expected result and actual outcome of the fund injections.
1970s and 1980s:
This era has seen a shift to a focus upon a ‘basic needs’ strategy. It was more relevant to ensure that all people have basic necessities, including clean water, primary health care and elementary education. In the 1980s the aim of building ‘human capital’ as supplanted by an ideologically-driven developmental shift linked to changes in the developmental thinking of the key aid-providers: western governments and IFIs, whose policies coalesced around the theory and practice of what were known as ‘structural adjustments programme’ (SAP).
This way of thinking reflected the intellectual dominance in the 1980s of neo-liberalism, an economic and political philosophy ideologically underpinning the pro-market ideology and monetarist ideas of contemporaneously influential governments. This concept advocates that developmentalluy, the state’s role should be downgraded and diminished – while that of private capitalists and entrepreneurs should be upgraded and augmented.
The 1990s to present:
The ideas of neo-liberal approach was at its zenith in 1989 – 1991 when cold war came to an end and the Eastern European communist bloc collapsed. However, neo-liberal strategy was criticised as it is argued that only government has the power to alter prevailing socio-economic realities through the application of appropriate policies and programmes and by constructing appropriate institutions. In other words, the market is not very good at allocating resources fairly; only governments can do that, and they need a range of appropriate institutions to accomplish their goals. But whether they are able to this or not is strongly linked to the varying amounts of pressure put on governments  by competing societal interests.
However, with repeated failure of the grand approaches to development, now more local and bottom up approach of development related decision making is preferred. The basic needs strategy is re-emphasised as United Nations declares Millennium Development Goals in septemer 2000. These are:
·         Eradicate extreme poverty or hunger
·         Achieve universal primary education
·         Promote gender equality and empower women
·         Improve maternal health
·         Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other disease.
·         Ensure environmental sustainability
·         Develop a global partnership for development.
Anthropologists with their methodological training of studying small communities through fieldwork are at better position to deal local problems locally at micro level. However the disciplinary debate for or against change and intervention makes it a difficult choice either to go for or go against the discipline’s application in promoting or engineering social change.

Anthropologists, social change and cultural relativism:

Early anthropologist were engaged in debating two major sets of theoretical issues which bore directly on on the practical application of anthropological knowledge. The first of these was the notion of change itself. Within anthropology, social change was initially debated between diffusionists, who see change as gradually spreading across cultures from a common point and evolutionists whose ideas rested on the assumption that all societies, if left alone, would evolve through broadly similar stages. With the growth of functionalism, anthropology began to concern itself more with the means through which societies maintained themselves than with the ways in which they changed. The tendency to study societies as if they were static remained strong in the period up to Second World War, but was challenged by anthropologists interested in what was termed ‘culture contact’ in the colonial territories. Gradually anthropological work began to take account of the historical context of communities and explanations of social and political change, in contrast to influential but ahistorical ethnographic monographs such as Evans-Pritchard’s The Nuer and Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific.
Beattie (1964) finds a vintage point during this period as increasingly change came to be seen as inseparable from society itself, and the reisation and acceptance of this by anthropologists underpin a continuing relationship between anthropology and development.
A second obstacle towards the development of applied anthropology is the issue of cultural relativism. Relativism raised the problems of ethics. If culture is to be understood on its own terms as Ruth Benedict has convincingly done in her book patterns of culture, what business did members of one culture have telling those of another what to do? As Eric Wolf (1964) points applied anthropology itself by definition is a reaction against cultural relativism, since it does not regard the culture that is applying anthropology as the equal of the culture to which anthropology is to applied.
However, this debate is ongoing in anthropological academia between those who favour more open ended theoretical development through long-term field work and those who prefer seeing anthropology as a tool for social engineering.

Importance of anthropology in development: Anthropology of development

Anthropologists have long made practical contributions to planned change and policy. However, many have also studied development as a field of academic enquiry in itself. These studies have challenged the dominant development discourses, its key assumptions, representations, and paved for alternative ways for development. Major issues which call for an anthropology of development include:
  1. The social and cultural effects of economic change
  2. The social and cultural effects of development projects

The social and cultural effects of economic change

Although the study of economic change has not always been academically fashionable, individual anthropologists have long been grappling with it. There are several works anthropological in nature which focus on the social and cultural effects of economic change.
Rural to urban migration and detribalisation:
There are several anthropological studies in Africa focusing on the influence of urbanism over rural life. Wilson (1941, 1942) argues that while Central African society was normally in a state of equilibrium, destabilising changes in African society was brought by increasing influence of capitalist production within the region, and growing rural to urban migration. Richards (1939), Schapera (1947) focus on many villages which lost their male labour force, most migrants could not sent enough resource for their families, and there was a large scale ‘cultural decay.’ Murray (1981) focus on oscillating migration resulting in marital disharmony, in other words the capital accumulated at the urban core was at the expense of rural periphery.
Agriculture change: polarisation
Clifford Geertz (1963a) focus on the Indonesian agriculture change in Agriculture Involution. With a historical reference of Indonesian agriculture, Geertz shows that colonial policies encouraged the development of a partial cash economy in which peasant farmers were forced to pay taxes to support plantation production for export. In consequence, majority of farmers could not produce surplus.
Epstein (1962) in Economic Development and Social Change in South India and in 1973 South India: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow discusses the effects of the introduction of new irrigation techniques and the growing importance of cash cropping. In the village of Wangala, where farmers were increasingly producing for and profiting from local sugar refinery, the changes had not led to major social readjustment. The village continued to have limited link to outside economy and social structure remained unaltered. In contrast in the second village Dalena, which had remained a dry land enclave in the midst of an irrigated belt, male farmers were encouraged to move away from the relatively unprofitable agricultural pursuits and participate in other ways in the burgeoning economy which surrounded them. Some became traders, or worked in white-collar jobs in the local town. These multiple economic changes led to the breakdown of the hereditary political, social and ritual obligations, the changing status of local caste groups and the rise of new forms of hierarchy.
Capitalism and ‘world systems’:
With increasing integration among the worlds, researchers increasing focus on relationship of local communities and cultures to the global political economy. This can be linked to the growing dominance during the 1970s of theories of dependency, and especially to Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory (Wallerstein, 1974), as well as the use of Marxism in the 1970s and 1980s by some anthropologists, for example Bloch, 1983. The emphasis is now on the ways in which societies on the periphery had long been integrated into capitalism, and on the cultural expressions of economic and political dependency and/or resistance.
A classic attempt to fuse neo-Marxist political economy with anthropological perspectives is Eric Wolf’s (1982) Europe and people without history. This is an ambitious attempt to place the history of the world’s peoples within the context of global capitalism, showing how the history of capitalism has tied even the most apparently remote areas and social groups into the system.
Drawing more directly from Neo-Marxist theories of dependency, an important study by anthropologist working in Latin America is by Michael Taussig’s (1980) The devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America. This is an account of the cultural as well as economic integration of Columbian peasants and of Bolivian tin miners in the money economy and proletarian wage labour. The Columbian peasants who seasonally sell their labour to plantations present the plantation economy and profits made from it as tied to the capitalist system and thus to the devil. Plantations are conceptualised as quite separate from the peasants’ own land; in the former, profit making requires deals to be made with the devil, whereas in the latter it does not. In the Bolivian tin mines, workers worship Tio (the devil), who Taussig argues is a spiritual embodiment of capitalism and a way of mediating pre-capitalist beliefs with the introduction of wage labour and industrialisation.
Gender issues:
During 1970s a new generation of feminist minded anthropologists like Sachs (1975), Leacock (1972) started working on what became known as GAD (Gender and Development). Some feminist anthropologists focus on the restudy of the subjects of ethnographic classics from a feminist perspective. The feminisation of subsistence has been one of the major arguments of these anthropologists. Moore (1988) for example showed that:
  1. Since women have reproductive as well are productive duties they are less free to produce cash crops. Thus while men could experiment with new technologies and production for exchange, women must first and foremost produce the subsistence foods on which their household depend.
  2. Male labour migration leaves women behind to carry the burden of supporting the subsistence sector.

The social and cultural effects of development projects

One of the most common criticisms made by anthropologists of development planning is that it is done in a ‘top-down’ manner. Planning is done at a distant office, and hence, often the plan does not match the local requirements. Robert Chamber’s (1983) Rural Development: Putting the Last First is a seminal statement of this position and draws heavily upon the insights of anthropology. Chambers attacks the biased preconceptions of development planners, most of whom have only a very shaky uinderstanding of rural life in so-called developing societies (Chambers, 1983, 1993). The only solution as Chambers argues is to ‘put the poor first’ and, most importantly, enable them to participate in projects of their own design and appraisal.
Tony Barnett’s (1977) The Gezira Scheme: An Illusion of Development is a classic critique of top-down development. Gezira scheme was a massive project of developing irrigation facility for cotton production in Sudan. Despite of apparent well being of Sudanese people the project failed, stagnated, and became dependent. Barnett argues that the workers were not allowed to have more land or sell it. The Gezira board was paternalistic and authoritarian, based on British effort to control ‘black’ labourers. This meant that cultivators had few incentives to be innovative, and the entire cotton product was dependent on foreign markets.
Barbara Rogers (1980) in The Domestication of Women argues that Western development planners make a range of Western and thus patriarchal, assumptions about gender relations in developing countries. It is often assumed, for example that farmers are male, that women do not do heavy productive work and that nuclear families are the norm. Through andocentric and biased research such as the use of national accounting procedures and surveys which assume that men are household heads, women become invisible. Women are thus systematically discriminated against, not least because there is discrimination within the development agencies themselves. The answer Rogers argues, is not simply more projects for women, for these often produce a ‘new segregation’ in which women are simply trained in domestic science or given sewing machines for income generation. Instead, gender awareness must be build into planning procedures, a process which will necessarily involve reform of the development institutions involved.
Day (1981) in a work on irrigation projects in the Gambia shows that by assuming that men controlled land, labour and income, the projects failed to increase national rice production and increased women’s dependency on men. Within the farming system of Mandinka, crop production is traditionally dominated by collective production for household consumption (maruo), but also involves separate cultivation by men and women on land they are allocated by the household head in return for their maruo labour (Kamanyango). Crops from this land are the property of the male or female cultivators. However, under rice irrigation projects sponsored by Taiwan (1966 – 74), Taiwan (1973 – 76), and China (1975 – 79), only men were given Kamanyango rights to irrigated land. In other irrigated plots designated as maruo, men increasingly used women’s skilled collective labour, but were able to pay them low wages because of the lack of other income generating opportunities available to women. Women’s traditional rights were thus systematically undermined by the projects, a process which had started during the colonial period, when once more the reciprocal rights and duties of farming were undermined by policies which encouraged male farmers to produce cash crops and failed to recognise the central role of female producers.

Anthropology of Success and failure:

Closely related to anthropological critiques of top-down planning is the criticism that planners fail to acknowledge adequately the importance, and potential of local knowledge. Instead, projects often involve the assumption that western or urban knowledge is superior to the knowledge of the people to be developed. They are regarded as ignorant, although the anthropologists have repeatedly shown, they have their own areas of appropriate expertise. Development projects often fail because of the ignorance of planners rather than the ignorance of the beneficiaries. This might inolve a range of factors, such as local ecological conditions, the availability of particular resources, physical and climatic conditions and so on. Mamdani’s classic analysis of the failure of the Khanna study, an attempt to introduce birth control to the Indian village of Manupur, is a fascinating account of developmental to-downism and ignorance (Mamdani, 1972). Because of cultural and economic value of having as many children as possible, Mamdani argues that population programmes are unlikely to have much success in rural India. The programme planners in the Khanna study, however, assumed that villagers’ rejection of contraception was due to ‘ignorance’, thus completely ignoring the social and economic realities of the village. Similarly Abhijit V Banerjee and Easther Duflo (2011) report the rural Indian villagers’ sense of insecurity to be one of the reasons for bigger families. They argue the children in rural India is seen as investment for old age pension, i.e. the more you have children the more the chance that you will be taken care of in old age. Once again, anthropological methods and questions, rather than bureaucratic planning, reveal the true constraints on successful development.
Considering development as a discourse much in the manner Foucault argues in his Order of things (1970) that fields of knowledge, their classification and hierarchic presentation in different periods is socially, historically and politically constructed and are therefore neither objective nor neutral. Considering development as discourse raises important questions about the nature of developmental knowledge and its interface with other representations of reality. Anthropology can have an important role here; first, in demonstrating that there are many other ways of knowing, and second, in showing what happens when different knowledges meet. In another contribution to the growing postmodern anthropology of development, for example, the relationship between scientific and local knowledge within development practice is explored.

Anthropologists in development:

Anthropologists are now employed in growing numbers by development agencies, organisations and private consultancy firms. A discussion of applied anthropology does not therefore simply raise questions of what a professional anthropologist might do. The type of work which professional anthropologists are asked to undertake can vary considerably. They may include applied research to produce supporting data for planned interventions; contributions to the appraisal and evaluation planning of development projects; or attempting to build local participation into the project. Assignments can vary from a short consultancy job lasting a few weeks, to a placement on a project for several years as one of the full-time staff.  
Some of the important positions that anthropologists are occupying in development agencies are:
1.       Social Development Advisors (SDA).
2.       Consultants
3.       Research officers
4.       Counsellors
5.       Advocacy role
Apart from the strict routine duties of anthropologists in development agencies, they are increasingly becoming a mediator between the developers and those to be ‘developed.’ Anthropologists are trained sceptics: they tend to argue that situations and ideas are usually more complicated than is immediately apparent; they believe that no fact or detail is too trivial to be considered; they may prefer quality to quantity; they are rarely ready to offer conclusions or advice in terms of straightforward course of action.
Anthropologists are well equipped to monitor the process of project implementation, which in effect is the task of monitoring social change. To do this, a combination of national and expatriate anthropologists, with boith men and women involved, will be able to draw on their different skills and perspectives in order to present different, though mutually reinforcing, analyses of events.
Anthropologists are involved in project design, appraisal and evaluation by national and international NGOs and aid agencies. Since the second world war the notion of the project has become central to mainstream development activity, whether centred on large scale infrastructural work such as building of a dam or bridge or softer areas such as health or education provision. Projects tend to pass through a series of staged activities, often known as the project cycle.
By the 1960s and 1970s, the World Bank and United Nations were promoting what they termed “Integrated Rural Development”, in which conventional planning methods were cast aside in favour of a measure of community participation in setting needs and a more comprehensive approach to tackling problems on a number of sectoral fronts simultaneously.
In consequence, a number of anthropologists were employed in carrying out impact studies among the local community to whether or not prohect’s objectives have been met.
The appearance of what has been termed ‘advocacy anthropology’ by its practitioners (Miller 1995) has involved itself with the efforts of indigenous people to gain more control over their lives (Escober 1992).

 Anthropological methodologies in development:

The traditional methodology of social anthropology is what is known rather vauely as ‘participant observation’: that is, the principle of living within a community for a substantial period of time – ‘fieldwork’, which might be expected to take one or two years – and immersing oneself in the local culture, work, food and language, while remaining an unobtrusive as possible. Many of the earliest anthropologists recorded their observations in a field diary, taking copious notes on all aspects of life, to be written up later as a monograph or ethnographic text, and without necessarily having a sense of the particular research questions they wished to address until they were well into their period of study or even until after they had returned home.
The blandness of participant observation as a technical methodological term in the 1960s and 1970s was gradually addressed by the growing body of more defined data collection techniques which anthropologists began to use under the general category of participant observation: case study collection, questionnaire surveys, structured and semi-structured interviewing, even computer modelling and the supplementing of qualitative material with quantative data. Nevertheless, participant observation has retained its centrality to the work of many anthropologists, and anthropologists have in general retained their fondness of qualitative rather than quantitative data.
Applied anthropologists have drawn upon a number of key insights from wider anthropology in order to equip themselves for their work. In terms of research methodologies, the main change is that participant observation my normally now be undertaken within a tightly circumscribed time-frame, with a set of key questions replacing more open-ended blank notebook approach. Furthermore, the applied anthropologists knows that his or her findings will be appreciated far more if they can be presented concisely and made to include at least an element of quantification.

Use of participation:

Like many of the currently fashionable development buzz words, the precise meaning of participation is elusive. Adnan et al. (1992) argue that meanings of participation can be broken down into three broad categories:
  1. Participation is simply process in which information about a planned project is made available to the public. This may involve listening to people, more structured survey, or a formal dialogue regarding project options.
  2. Participation may include project-related activities rather than mere information flows. This might involve using labour from the community, or a longer-term commitment by local groups to maintain services or facilities or even to plan for their future use.
  3. There are people’s own initiatives. These fall outside the scope of the project agenda. They are therefore, some argue, the only true form of participation, for they are not imposed from the outside. If mobilisation comes from the poorer sections of the community, it also truly empowering.

Participatory Rural Appraisal:

The work of Robert Chambers has been extremely influential in this regard, in its attempts to counter excessively formalistic approaches to ‘data collection’ by development workers and professionals. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and its variants aim to enable rural people to plan and enact solutions to problems by analysing their own knowledge of local conditions, facilitated by outsiders. This approach (Chambers, 1992) has drawn upon insights borrowed from social anthropology such as:
  1. The idea of learning in the field as ‘flexible art rather than rigid science’
  2. The need to learn in the field, informally, through conversations and relaxed observation.
  3. The importance of the research’s attitudes, behaviour and rapport with local people.
  4. The emic/etic distinction, an anthropological concept drawn from linguistics, which contrasts the indigenous reality of social actors with the observer’s perception of that reality
  5. The validity and potential value of indigenous knowledge.
PRA therefore involves training researchers to go to villages and spend time talkling to groups of people ‘in situ’, encouraging them to express local problems and potential solutions in their own terms. Care is taken to represent as many different sets of interests as possible, and the focus in on mutual learning between researcher and informant.

Participatory research action:

It is aloose group of methodologies undertaken by agencies – such as NGOs – in areas of Asia and Africa. It assumes that the main objective of develkopm,ent is the fulfilment of the human urge for creative engagement, and does not therefore focus on poverty alleviation, ‘basic needs’ or structural change as the immediate goals to be tackled.
In practice, typically catalytic initiatives are brought about by educated outsiders, free of party and political allegiances, who encourage groups of people to get together to discuss the reason for their poverty and engage in their own social investigation. Group building follows, combined with discussion of prioritised actions which can be undertaken to address the principal causes of their poverty. External resources can be provided for support, but are not regarded as precondition for problem solving. The aim is to generate a ‘progressive action-reflection rhythm’ or ‘people’s praxis’.

Farming systems research:

Local knowledge is seen as often situated in practice and in real situations. The emergence of farming systems research in late 1970s reflects many of the concerns that concentrate on local solutions from local knowledge for local problems. FSR focuses on the small farm as a basic system for research and development and attempts to bring about the strong involvement of farmers themselves in every stage of the research and development process (Conway, 1986). The farmer’s decision making is treated as being rational rather than guided, as was often supposed, by ignorance or conservatism. The objective is to improve the relevance and appropriateness of research, and this includes the participation of social scientists alongside biological scientists. FSR is also emphatically holistic, treating decisions and procedures for on crop within the wider farming system and its economic, social and environmental components.

Aid agency/ aid industry/ donors:

Development aid or development cooperation (also development assistance, technical assistance, international aid, overseas aid, official development assistance (ODA), or foreign aid) is financial aid given by governments and other agencies to support the economic, environmental, social and political development of developing countries.
Donors today tend to give most aid to countries which they previously colonised: British give most aid to South Asia and Africa., while the Dutch are heavily involved in South East Asia, for example. Despite of several initial beginnings during colonial period, the real start of the amin processes of aid transfer is usually taken to be the end of the Second World War when major multilateral agencies were established. The IMF and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (later to become World Bank) were set up during the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, while the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) was created as a branch of United Nations in 1945. In contrast what became known as ‘bilateral aid’ which was a transfer from one government to another, ‘multilateral aid’ came to involve a number of different donor acting in combination, none of whom directly controls policy. However, from the outset of donors such as World Bank were heavily influenced by the US and tended to encourage centralised, democratic governments with a strong bias towards the free market (Robertson, 1984). Meanwhile, various bilateral agencies were also established by the wealthier nations. These are the governmental organisations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), or British Overseas Development Administration (ODA), both of which are involved in project and programme aid with partner countries.

Further reading:
Gardner, K., and Lewis, D., (1996). Anthropology Development and Post-modern Challenge. London: Pluto Press.
Most of this note is taken from Gardner and Lewis's book. This is still the best book on development and anthropology so far I have seen.

 David Lewis. (2005). Anthropology and development; the uneasy relationship. London: LSE research online. Click here

O'Driscoll, E. (2009). Applying the 'uncomfortable science: the role of anthropology in development. Durham Anthropology Journal. click here

Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, Bhaskar Chakrabarti and Suman Nath. (2010). Village Forums or Development Councils: People’s participation in decision-making in rural West Bengal, India. Commonwealth journal of local governance. click here

[i] In this perspective development discourse is comparable to ‘orientalism’ – the term used by Edward Said (1978) to describe the West’s ideological control over the Eastern ‘others’ by representing them in particular ways.


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