EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Collaboration, (in)determinacy and the work of translation in development encounters

Location S-236
Date and Start Time 31 July, 2014 at 14:00


Sophie Haines (University of Oxford) email
Piergiorgio Di Giminiani ( Universidad Catolica de Chile) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Our panel explores the implications of collaboration discourses and practices in socio-economic development programmes, and reflects on the work of translation in creating and negotiating conflicts, uncertainties, and new social, political and environmental relations.

Long Abstract

This panel will explore collaboration discourses and practices in socio-economic development programmes, and their implications for the translation and materialisation of different worlds. In times of crisis (environmental, economic, moral), collaboration has emerged as an alternative paradigm to the certainties once held by development planners and practitioners. While giving rise to expectations of intimacy between development actors, collaboration also fosters uncertainties about the kinds of worlds it aims to affect among differently-positioned subjects. Processes of translation in development can be problematic and productive, involving relationships and objects that are at once material and imaginative, instrumental and meaningful.

In a departure from perspectives that see translation as unilateral, and from those focused on the incommensurability of 'local' and 'scientific' knowledge, this panel examines the potential of collaboration and its frictions for challenging existing assumptions and ultimately generating different worlds. Through the reconfiguration of relations among individuals and groups, humans and non-humans, development encounters emerge as processes of ontogenesis. We aim to also address the political and historical implications of transformative and fragmented ontologies, at work in new technologies of collaboration in development.We invite analyses that consider explicit and implicit translations in development programmes, and explore how key terms, such as community, nature, indigeneity, marginality, poverty, (etc) come to be determined/underdetermined. We encourage reflections ondevelopment projects as material and moral, political and poetical, effective and affective; and ethnographic insights into the experience of collaborations and conflicts in everyday life, as well as in moments of sudden change or disruption.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The development arena: an ethnography of conflicts and negotiations in a development project in Pakistan

Author: Ilaria Elisea Scerrato (University of Rome La Sapienza)  email

Short Abstract

This paper proposes a reflection on social change in a context of planned development in North-West of Pakistan. From this point of view the development is considered as an object of study that allow to understand social phenomena and practices.

Long Abstract

Considering that anthropology of development is anthropology of contemporaneity, this paper proposes a reflection on social change in a context of planned development in North-West of Pakistan. From this point of view the development is considered as an object of study, because it is a set of actions of various types, that allow to understand social phenomena and practices (Olivier De Sardan 2005).

Based on an actor-oriented approach, the ethnographic research was carried out in the Swat Valley which has heavily affected by the damages of the conflict with the terrorism in 2007-2009 and then by the terrible flood in 2010; now many projects are being carried out in support of the local communities displaced from Swat in the nearby areas in 2009 - Internally Displaced People Phenomenon- which produced a serious humanitarian crisis in northwestern Pakistan.

The analysis is based on data collected during an ethnographic research focused on the actions of a development project that sees the valorization and conservation of cultural heritage, and the community involvement as key factors for the economic recovery of the region. The observation of negotiations of meanings and identities, exchanges and contrasts among the social actors involved in the project reveals the processes of translation of cultures and different worlds and the continuous reconfiguration of the relationships between strategic groups.

Translations of security sector reform in Guinea-Bissau

Author: Christoph Kohl (Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (GEI), Braunschweig, Germany)  email

Short Abstract

The paper examines the collaboration between international donor institutions and experts on the one hand and “locals” on the other in Guinea-Bissau's reform of the security sector.

Long Abstract

Since its emergence in the 1990s the security sector reform (SSR) paradigm has been conceived by donors as a pre-condition for peaceful development in conflict torn countries According to relevant norm setters like the UN or OECD, among others, the security sector encompasses the military, police, judiciary, civilian oversight bodies, legislature etc. It is believed that an accountable and effective security sector contributes not only to security in a narrow sense but also to improved governance, economic growth, and social progress.

A crucial SSR buzz concept is "local ownership". Although international organizations intend to transform the security sector of countries chastised as "fragile" and "failed" like Guinea-Bissau by unilaterally exporting their own normative models and insist on (financial) donor conditionality, local ownership is nonetheless regarded as prerequisite for successful SSR. "Local ownership" aims at the integration of "local" voices, demands, and knowledge in the reform process.

This paper examines the collaboration between international donor institutions and experts on the one hand and "locals" - whoever they may be - on the other. More precisely: How is SSR translated into the Bissau-Guinean reform arena and how is handled and negotiated the tacit conflict between donor conditionality and "local ownership" in the security development encounter? To which extent do diverse worlds of perceptions, discourses, and practices of differently-positioned both "locals" and international experts collide, and which potentials and problems do consequently arise in the course of collaboration?

Findings result from am ethnographic fieldwork carried out in February and March 2013 in Guinea-Bissau.

"Addicts of Yunnan, unite!" Medical activism, advocacy and cooperation in the context of contemporary China

Author: Giulia Zoccatelli (School of Oriental and African Studies)  email

Short Abstract

Based on 15 months of fieldwork among community-based organizations HIV-positive heroin users in Southwest China, this paper reflects over the deemed universal notion of patients' advocacy and on its actual articulation in the everyday practices of grassroots activism in contemporary China.

Long Abstract

Faced with the international criticism that followed the country's mismanagement of the SARS pandemic in 2003, China's government was left with little choice but to open its almost autarchic public health sector to the external support of aid money and ideas. In the wake of these facts, China's widely denied HIV/AIDS epidemic gained an unprecedented centrality among the concerns of international development agencies and NGOs. Drawing on the UN call to foster the Greater Involvement of People with AIDS (GIPA) in the management of HIV-related matters, international funds and programs begun to actively support the establishment of local patients' communities. Beside creating entirely new forms of (bio)sociality among before largely marginalized populations, these programs introduced new concepts and deemed universal styles of actions into the worlds of the people they addressed.

Based on 15 months of ethnographic work among community based organizations of current and former heroin users in Southwest China, this paper explores how a seemingly univocal concept such as patients' advocacy is actually taken up, reshaped and performed in the everyday lives of people that are supposed to engage with it. To this end, I follow the alternate vicissitudes of an advocacy project aimed at raising the Provincial insurance coverage for hepatitis C. Funded by a global network of HIV/AIDS activists, supervised by a large Chinese NGO, targeted at Yunnan's Provincial government and carried out by three local patients' organizations, this project becomes the ideal site to unravel the assemblage of agencies and meanings that shape development practice in context.

Ecotourism for conservation? The 'awkward' collaboration of whale-watching tourism and whale-meat consumption

Author: Myung Ae Choi (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

Through ethnographic fieldwork on whale tourism of Jangsaengpo, South Korea, this paper explores the specific local translation of the global concept of ‘whale-watching tourism',which creates an ‘awkward’ collaboration of whale-watching tourism and whale-meat consumption to supplement each other.

Long Abstract

This paper builds upon the emerging body of social and cultural anthropology work on the global connections that creates "awkward, unstable, and unexpected aspects" emerged from the global-local 'friction' (Tsing 2004) through an analysis of whale watching discourses and practices in South Korea. The main focus is to evaluate a specific local translation of the global concept of 'whale-watching tourism' in particular, 'ecotourism' in general, which produces an 'awkward' collaboration of whale-watching tourism and whale-meat consumption to supplement each other. Although celebrated as an alternative form of development through conservation, the concept ecotourism is remained arbitrary, ranging from strictly controlled tourism focused on the conservation of target species to green legitimacy of any nature-based tourism. As a form of ecotourism, whale-watching tourism is based on particular discourses and practices that regard whales as "endangered and intelligent mammals to be protected" (Epstein 2008). However, in whale tourism of Jangsaengpo, the concept of whale-watching tourism appears to lose its normative connotations and becomes translated into another exciting economic opportunity utilizing cetaceans. Drawing on materials from ethnographic fieldwork, this paper examines the peculiar 'collaboration' of whale-watching and whale-eating experience that constitute whale tourism. This 'awkward collaboration' creates two conflicting imperatives of the protection of whales for tourism and the resumption of whaling for food. I will then relate this particular form of translation to cultural and historical specificities of South Korea that receive, transform and resist the global notion of whale-watching tourism; which simultaneously categorizes whales as meat, endangered species and biological life.

Three villages, four years and a printer cartridge

Author: Anne Fitzgerald (National University of Ireland)  email

Short Abstract

Who are the winners and who are the losers in the rush for land titles in three villages in central Tanzania ? Are title deeds and debt a sure way to capitalist development ?

Long Abstract

Land formalisation in Tanzania is a controversial issue. Advocates of a neoliberal persuasion including decision makers in the Tanzanian government and World Bank economists contend that titling will lead to tenure security, more productive agriculture and facilitate inward investment in agricultural sector. While local and international scholars and activists regard land titling as a means of increasing land conflicts and facilitating land grabs from rural communities and subsistence farmers. Since 2000 the work of the Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto (2000) has been influential in promoting the view insecurity property rights are a major causative factor in poverty and underdevelopment. He contends that unless the poor are given the means to convert their valuable assets into capital, they will remain poor. In 2004 the Tanzanian government turned to De Soto’s Institute of Liberty for technical advice on the design and implementation of a programme to the formalise the land and property rights of the large informal sector of poor and marginalised Tanzanian citizens. This and other similar initiatives were envisioned to create a market in land and opportunities to take a loan for investment in the business of farming. What do the people of the villages of Sanjaranda, Kitopeni and Gurungu think of land formalisation and how does it fit with the ideas of land holding from a socialist past ? Does formalisation live up to the promises of tenure security and ‘development’ through loans and investment ?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.