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DEV Research Seminar - Friday 6th December

Brendan Whitty, Lecturer in Development Practice in the School of International Development at UEA, will look at Development structures in this weeks research seminar


The Limits of the Development Imagination: Project Logics and professional Structures

Friday 6th December | ARTS 2.06 | 12-1pm | Brendan Whitty


How are project logics are legitimised within donor bureaucracies, development’s initiating centres of power? To answer this, I will focus on the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The paper’s argument foregrounds the underlying system of professions within the structure of the development bureaucracies, rather than fleeting domestic politics or international conceptions of aid effectiveness. I make the argument in two stages. First, I draw on ethnographic material to show how the professions are enacted in a DFID country office. Inspired by Mary Douglas’s theorisation of hierarchies, and her insight that ways of thinking are enacted through ritual practice of social structure, I will argue that the enactment of professional responsibilities reproduce ways of thinking about development. Historical analysis shows the emergence of a set of development sectors or categories, with a corresponding system of professions. For DFID officials, how to think about development is founded in these professional groups and their organisation of project logics. Second, having placed the system of professions at the centre of how DFID thinks about development, I take a second step. I situate these professions within an idea of the developing country that is rooted in an analogy to the British state. I conclude that this system of professions and the categories of value they embody, are legitimised by analogy to the UK - and that this structural grounding of development policy has significant implications for what reforms are possible.