A Famine Buffet

A bloated belly in Chad. An emaciated woman in Kolkatta. A skeletal frame in Sudan. Images of hunger are synonymous with poverty and in turn with ‘development’. I recently attended the launch of a global hunger report written by a large bilateral agency. The event was glitzy. The food was lavish. My conscience was in turmoil. The walls were covered in projected images of ‘hunger’ and against this backdrop we quaffed fancy wine, nibbled on canapés and satiated ourselves with an extravagant buffet. Food stuck to the roof of my dry mouth and the wine tasted acrid. I swallowed and made small talk as I imagined a new menu:

An ounce of maizemeal served with a side of integrity

Half a cassava dowsed in a sauce of veracity

A handful of rice accompanied by a clear conscience Continue reading

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What’s not to like about ‘development’? Gustavo Esteva

Surely wanting to help people is a good thing? Not necessarily so according to Mexican thinker and activist Gustavo Esteva. He is an advocate of post-development; an academic movement which calls for the dismantling of ‘development’ from the World Bank to international NGOs.

What does Esteva write about?

Esteva’s essay Development  asks “what does development actually mean?” He traces the history of the word to illustrate that ‘development’ is not something that has always existed. Rather it is an idea, something that has been invented. Continue reading

My job ‘in the field’: a reflection

I live in India. I work in ‘development’. I was lucky; I graduated with a degree in Anthropology and immediately got a job working ‘in the field’. So I packed my bags and headed half way across the world to start a life far removed from my days as a student. I had been to India twice before for months at a time; I knew the country, its idiosyncratic quirks and off beat rhythms; its vibrant colours and potent smells; its sleepy villages and pulsating slums.

And far removed from all the guidebook photos of festivals and saris and yoga and wonders of the world, there is my office on a hill. I travel there everyday and sit at a computer. I write project proposals and grants and evaluations. ‘Development’ lingo says I am ‘working in the field’ and yet I can’t remember the last time I walked through a slum or a village – the places on the margins of Indian society where ‘development’ takes place.

So why do I live in India if the work I do could be done anywhere in the world? Continue reading