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Why am I in Development? (Lykke)

March 11, 2010

I really don’t like the word ‘development’. One could develop in any direction. And positive development screams for a definition of the word positive. For who… In what context…??  I’ve always been told how annoying it is that I simply have to argue with everything, even if I actually agree. It’s just that the power-structures of this world make me really angry. I’m not suggesting revolution, just that people like those described by Andrew put down their cocktail glass and start making some change!!

Western Bum + Driver's Seat = Development?

I completely agree that it’s fine to enjoy what you’re doing, even preferable because that means you probably do it better, and if there happens to be a pool on my path I’m the first to jump in. But I COULD do without one, and I’d rather see the money spent on building one, used differently. There’s my whole problem with ‘development’: I don’t see that much great wisdom in the way people in the “developed” world are prioritizing and living their lives (big generalisation obviously but you get the idea… greedy wasteful consumerism with seemingly no concern for the supplies of others…) Sooo, I guess I just have a problem with placing my Western bum in the infamous “driver seat” considering all my superficial cultural baggage.

That, I think is what draws me towards working in the so-called developing world. I want to be around people who are not spending their days trying to figure out strategies that, at any cost, would position them well in the bizarre competition to accumulate the most unnecessary crap to surround themselves with. I know it’s contradictory coming from a wealthy (spoiled) country like Norway and studying in London… But does that mean that I can’t have an opinion?

And I of course I do want to try to implement my interpretation of positive development. People should have the opportunities to choose the kind of life they want, (go Sen!) so in my view education is the way forward. But then again I don’t know how to justify the writing of the curriculum. I think people who teach, including development workers, should have a really good reason for thinking they know best. That’s why anthropology and development could go so well together. Really in-depth anthropological field work first, finding out what people want and what would work according to local circumstances. The constant economic neglect of cultural varieties drives me crazy, failure upon failure as if the people in these countries are ours to experiment with – “developers” are actually dealing with people’s lives!

Can’t imagine the frustration I’m signing up for in going out and trying to do it better myself… So many of big questions for tiny (self-proclaimed) “citizens of the world”.

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Lykke Stavnes (MSc Development Studies)

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