And apart from that…: Development beyond the categories of success and failure
Kathrin Knodel, Goethe University Frankfurt
Numerous debates focus on success and failure of development projects. This panel however shifts the attention to their impact on social structures in the communities concerned and (self)perceptions of beneficiaries and actors. This enables us to complete the picture of development by looking at its influence on people’s lifeworlds in the widest sense.
Development in Africa as well as the discourse of it have been challenging anthropology and many other applied and theoretical disciplines for the last decades. Debates mainly focus on success and failure of development projects and on suggestions how to improve the different approaches that have been in vogue over the years. Apart from these two categories there are other impacts that are never aimed at in project descriptions and programme plans but that are undeniable: Development projects influence and are influenced by social relationships whenever donors and project partners
meet in person. They divide the community into brokers/managers on the one hand and
beneficiaries/workers on the other hand, into those who can improve their societal position and those who get even more marginalized. They influence collective narratives and individual biographies. They shape perceptions of the others and the self. They set the own group in relation to the nation state and the international community. They create such different stances as hopes, expectations, deceptions, trauma and nostalgia.
This panel is looking for empirical data and case studies of the present and past that give examples of these and related effects of development interventions. A project may not do anything in the sense of the preassigned aims but it will always do something to the people and groups involved. How do they talk about these experiences? How do social structures change? In what way does it frame the perceptions of the own community and the others? These effects are not only unintended but also often overlooked. Although they are not categories on evaluation sheets, they contribute to a comprehensive in-depth understanding of the phenomenon of development. This focus enables us to
complete the picture of internationally led aid cooperation by looking at its influence on people’s lifeworlds in the widest sense.