Writing from diverse locations, contributors critically examine some of the key terms in current development discourse. Why should language matter to those who are doing development? Surely, there are more urgent things to do than sit around mulling over semantics? But language does matter. Whether emptied of their original meaning, essentially vacuous, or hotly contested, the language of development not only shapes our imagined worlds, but also justifies interventions in real people’s lives. If development buzzwords conceal ideological differences or sloppy thinking, then the process of constructive deconstruction makes it possible to re-examine what have become catch-all terms like civil society and poverty reduction, or bland aid-agency terms such as partnership or empowerment. Such engagement is far more than a matter of playing word games.
The reflections included here raise major questions about how we think about development itself. The 30 contributors to this volume include Cassandra Balchin, Srilatha Batliwala, Robert Chambers, Neera Chandhoke, Ben Fine, Shalmali Guttal, Pablo Alejandro Leal, Islah Jad, Thandika Mkandawire, John Samuel, John Toye, and Peter Uvin. Originally published as a special double issue of Development in Practice journal, the book is vital reading for all concerned with a deeper understanding international development policy and practice.
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