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Accepted paper:

Community Development as a Moral Regime


Susan Hyatt (Indiana University Indianapolis)

Paper short abstract:

Based on fieldwork in Indianapolis, I argue that models for community development, that claim to build on local 'assets' rather than on 'deficits', serve to mask structural inequalities and promote particularly moralizing and potentially authoritarian visions for neighborhood growth.

Paper long abstract:

The slippage between technomoral projects and authoritarian regimes of governance can be seen in the context of neighborhood development programs, that seek to revitalize struggling communities by claiming to build on their local 'assets' rather than on 'deficits'. 'Asset-Based Community Development', or ABCD, has become a popular program for addressing local-level concerns and has been adopted by a range of rural and urban entities around the world. This model is embraced by both funders and local governments because it does not address or challenge structural inequalities and it can actually serve to quell dissent. Furthermore, ABCD imposes particularly moralistic judgements on those residents who do not embrace visions of futures that essentially advocate gentrification, representing such insurgents as lacking initiative or as pathologically dependent on government largess. These development programs also articulate with new platforms for electronic surveillance in ways that serve to control and police local dissent, and that are riven with assumptions about who constitutes a 'legitimate' community resident. In this paper, based on fieldwork in Indianapolis, I show how such regimes can no longer be understood as creating neoliberal subjects; rather, they are shading into authoritarianism and have become another conduit for channeling mobile capital into neighborhoods in ways that can result in the displacement of the very residents they claim to be empowering.

panel P103
The rise of technomoral governance: anthropological insights into value-laden scales of evidence