This panel examines the magical or ritual aspects of development: the reduction of social complexity to striking images; the performance of progress or participation, and so on. Does development show the Enlightenment project of modernisation itself to be a kind of magic, a ritual to be performed?
International development is easy to characterise as a modernising project, descended from the Enlightenment. Seeking myriad technical solutions to identified problems of social and economic life in the Third World, at a discursive level, development presents itself as rational, a-political and - at least in principle - driven by a universal humanism. Yet in certain contexts development practice appears to undo its own rationalising schemes by promoting itself in the media of magic and ritual broadly understood: through the reduction of social complexity to striking images of change, performances of progress or demonstrations of participation, engagement and integration. As a panel we will explore such ritual aspects of development practice. In doing so, we will attempt to extend critiques of development planning and management, which expose the dissonance between the inner workings of development projects and their stated aims, in order to engage the front-line politics of ritual, magic and image as development seduces its audiences and compels its subjects. Our objective should be to consider the extent to which development reveals the Enlightenment project of modernisation itself to be a kind of magic, a ritual to be performed.