Although the title of this post appears paradoxical and self-defeating, I hope you do not take it literally. If you have read this far, then I assume you ignored the declarative statement, and are perhaps intrigued, puzzled or just ready to disagree. It is a broad-side shot that is by no means personal or aggressive. I am not suggesting that we should not read and engage with development blogs, but that we need to expand our repertoire and thinking.
I am sure that I am not the first to make this statement, but was motivated by an email from BFF and WhyDev co-founder Weh Yeoh, who shared this passage below. It was written by Owen Barder recently, and is not only insightful and delightful, but paradigm shifting:
“As developing countries have become more integrated into the world economy, and less dependent on aid, so their interests have changed. The most important international events for developing countries this year were the repeated failures of European leaders to put in place a credible plan to save the euro, the G20’s decision to put the world trade talks out of their misery, and modest progress at the Durban talks on climate change. These will all have more impact on developing countries than gatherings of the “development set” at World Bank meetings, the UN general assembly or the Busan forum on aid effectiveness” (Owen Barder, Guardian)
What struck me about Owen’s statement is that it goes to the core of knowledge and learning. Specifically, that more than ever, we have to locate the agendas, priorities and ideas of development within multiple disciplines and frameworks: International Relations, Psychology, History, Geopolitics, Ethnography, Economics, Trade, Finance, Politics, Sociology, etc.
Owen’s statement is particularly relevant and illustrative for countries such as Ghana, which the Financial Times sees as “an emerging black power, rather than an aid-dependent African reformer, collecting World Bank stars”. Ghana’s formulation of poverty reduction and economic growth strategies, budgetary decisions and resource allocation will have more to do with geopolitics, global and regional economics and domestic politics than with development frameworks, human rights and aid agendas. The latter usually being the bread and butter of aid and development online chatter.
My own personal experience of development discussions and readings, both on- and off-line, presume a unique space for development; not that it is regarded as unconnected from politics, trade and economics. It is axiomatic that development occupies the same space and time as these realities.
However (and I am very guilty of this), we presume development to be it’s own mastery, to have it’s own uniqueness; perhaps suffering from what Marc Bellemare referred to in a recent post as ‘chronocentrism’ – developmentcentrism. That what is happening now in Development is somehow different and unique compared to other periods in History. This is not unique to development.
“Indeed, for many, it seems difficult to take a long view of the history of economic thought and admit that, much as we chuckle at some of the research “findings” of a few hundred years ago (Malthus is a particularly good example), researchers 50 years from now will find plenty to criticize about our own work — if they read it at all”. (Marc Bellemare)
In order to escape this bubble of developmentcentrism (new jargon alert), we must stop reading development blogs and read more widely. A good reading list should not look like the Guardian’s Global Development ‘Key first-year reads‘, but more like an entrancing Amazon Wish List (ok, so mine may not be entrancing, but feel free to give any of these titles as a gift to me).
Of course, chances are that you, the reader, already do this and tumble through sites such as Feminist Ryan Gosling (speaks for itself, with many spin-offs) or Third and Delaware (which chronicles fashion statements from every single episode of Roseanne). But, you only need to look at development blogs’ suggested readings, links and rolls to get caught in the echo chamber.
So, here, I would like to make some suggestions of blogs and other sites across a variety of disciplines and studies, and that do not mention the words ‘development’, ‘aid’ or ‘SEAWL’, but which are relevant to expanding and bursting the development bubble. I would also love to get your suggestions and interests (there are many standard suggestions in regard to economics, which is usually conflated with development, so lets try to get beyond Tyler Cowens in this field).
- Savage Minds: “Savage Minds is a collective web log devoted to both bringing anthropology to a wider audience as well as providing an online forum for discussing the latest developments in the field.”
- CultureBy- Grant McCracken: intersection of economics and anthropology
- Zero Anthropology: anthropology after empire
- Vox: research-based policy analysis and commentary from leading economists
- Beat The Press: “continues to offer up useful rebuttals to the who-could-have-known-it type of journalism that happily swallows the pabulum delivered up by financial institutions, government and central banks.” (WSJ)
- An American Perspective from China: Do you want understand the global economy? Then, you will need to understand the Chinese economy
- Stratfor: although it gets a little deterministic, offers another valuable perspective for understanding the world
- Psychology Today: blog of the popular magazine Psychology Today
- PsyBlog: understand your mind, understand others’
- MindBlog: Deric Bownds reports new ideas and research on mind, brain, and behaviour
What non-development blogs do your read to better understand aid and development?
Latest posts by Brendan Rigby (see all)
- So long, and thanks for all the fish! - July 5, 2017
- This story about a small boy and starfish explains global development - May 28, 2017