Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Spring 2012
12.1 Applying Anthropology, Part 1
An ideological justification to guide native peoples in specific directions.
Today’s intervention philosophy = development.
Guiding Principles: industrialization, modernization, Westernization, and individualism are desirable advances
Roots of Development
Began at the end of colonialism (post WWII).
New form of political-economic interaction between core and periphery.
Like colonialists, developers envision themselves:
Not as exploiters of poor places and peoples
But as agents of progress.
Cold War (1950s-1990s) and Development
Many parts of the world characterized by huge inequities.
Fear of peasant movements and Communism.
Solution = development
Bring people into capitalist system.
Develop industries and markets
Make friends through development
Major growth since 1950s
National organizations (USAID, AUSAID, GTZ)
Multinational organizations (UNDP)
Non-Governmental Organizations (Gates Foundation)
Dissemination of capital and technical knowledge
Flow from “Developed” to “Underdeveloped”
But who determines how to develop? Who measures “success” of development? Who really benefits from
Anthropology’s Changing Objectives
Previous Consensus: Role is to understand and describe other societies.
Today’s Consensus: Anthropologists have the skills and knowledge to help solve problems.
Anthropology and Development
Academic Dimension: Critiquing assumptions and discourses of development
Applied Dimension: Working with local people to design culturally appropriate and socially sensitive projects.
Kottak’s Suggestions for Development
To maximize social and economic benefits, [development] projects must be culturally compatible, respond to
locally perceived needs, involve men and women in planning and carrying out the changes that affect them,
harness traditional organizations, be flexible.
Projects may fail because they are not economically or culturally compatible.
Can’t assume that people are willing to make dramatic lifestyle changes for sake of “efficiency”.
Neglecting cultural variability and differences. Uniform approach to problem solving.
The Anthropological Advantage
Development officials are often socially distant from those they seek to benefit.
Through fieldwork anthropologist are socially close to those they seek to benefit.
Invisible Colour (Loftsdottir)
Issues of racial identity have been ignored in the context of international development.
How does development stimulate and recreate racialized notions?
How are racial identities constructed through development encounters?
Who Gives? Who Receives?
“How is ‘whiteness’ created and recreated through the discourses and actions of development institutions and
others interested in aid?”
“How do images of dark-skinned people in developing countries as an almost objective reality perpetuate a certain
image of ‘whiteness’?”
Lived practices and visual representations of development in countries that give and receive aid.
Tangible and intangible elements associated with progress that are embedded in ideas about modernization.
Hierarchy of who is in charge and who is subordinate; signs advertising projects; cars marked with logos of
development organizations; exclusive spaces for development officials.
Discourses about donor nation (“we are generous”); contrasting donors (saviors) with recipients (people in need).
Imaging and Performing Development
What social categorizations (e.g., race) are created and maintained through imaging and performing development?
Continuous depictions of “Third World” peoples as impoverished and helpless . . .
Continuous portrayal of Whites as saviors
A commentary on ‘whiteness’ created and recreated through the discourses and actions of development