Whose Development?: An Ethnography of Aid

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The `anthropology of development' is already challenging the received wisdom of development thought and practice. In this book, Crewe and Harrison build on existing work by using their own experience of aid projects in Africa and Asia to examine a number of deep-seated assumptions in the minds of `developers'. Flawed notions about progress, gender, technology, partnership, motivation, culture and race persist, and there are yawning gaps between these and the policies and actual practices of development. Through ethnographic case material from two different organizations - one an international NGO, the other a multilateral agency - the authors explore what actually happens when expatriate development personnel, local government officials and the intended beneficiaries of aid interact with one another. They describe how power inequalities based on race, class and gender are reflected in the processes of aid. This is a work of considerable subtlety. The authors find the dichotomies between `us', the `developers', and `them', the `beneficiaries' of development, inadequate. They question the apparently monolithic power of the developers, and show the need for a more nuanced, contextual account of the complex and often ambiguous relationships that exist within the aid industry. And while it refuses to provide simple answers, this book greatly enriches our understanding of the cultural and structural dynamics of the development process.