Anthropology, Development and the Post-Modern Challenge by Katy Gardner, David Lewis

By Katy Gardner, David Lewis

Through precise case reports and the problems raised by way of them, Gardner and Lewis define key social concerns and difficulties of improvement, and finish that anthropological views can give a contribution certainly to improvement coverage and practice.

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We assume that these are inherently problematic; indeed, some aspects of development are actively destructive and disempowering.  Before discussing how this might be done, let us turn to the history of applied anthropology.  Others sought careers outside academia in sectors where their skills could be utilised on a longer­term basis, working in fields as diverse as industry, agriculture, conservation and defence.  In the US, opportunities for applied anthropology originated through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which became a sponsoring body for research into local customs, political institutions and landholding patterns and rights.

These arguments have had a radical effect on the authority of 'experts', fundamentally undermining many of the earlier assumptions which came out of the colonial, and post­colonial, North.  We suggest, however, that development theory has reached a profound impasse, and that this is partly a result of post­modern tendencies.  The new trends also relate more directly to practice and policy rather than theory.  This can be both confusing and directionless, and liberating: a source of potential creativity.

This school of thought was radically to affect development studies during the 1970s.  The Third World, it suggests, is not natural, but created through economic and political processes.  Capital accumulation in the periphery is therefore unlikely to occur, both because of processes which suck it into the metropolitan centre, and because of wider international processes which take it outside the country.  Not only is state socialism often associated with extreme political repression, but by the 1990s, with the breakdown of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the new openness of China to world trade, aid and other Page 18 manifestations of capitalism, and the economic crisis facing Cuba, its long­term viability appears limited.

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