National development experts and professionals: under-researched yet important actors in development
Palash Kamruzzaman (University of South Wales)
Phoebe Beedell (University of East London/ Independent researcher)
Opening (up) Development Practice
Library, Seminar Room 6
Thursday 20 June, 9:00-10:30 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

'Aid ethnographies' have, so far, largely focused on practitioners from the global north. This panel brings together the latest research on national development professionals and experts, highlighting that without their reflections our understanding of the personnel of development is only partial.

Long abstract:

International aid employs a myriad of professionals and experts tasked with operationalising development policies in the global south and maximizing value-for-money for donors. Understanding the agency and capacities of this highly diverse workforce has been addressed by a body of literature broadly categorised as 'aid ethnographies', which has revealed the dilemmatic nature of 'Aidland' characterised as it is by complex, often conflicting demands; contradictions; and paradoxes.

This literature has, until recently, been almost entirely focussed upon the experiences of 'international' development practitioners from the global north. The roles of 'national' development professionals and experts, and their relationships with wider society and hegemonic ideologies, remain relatively unexplored in development studies. Without their reflections current ethnographies of aid can resemble the ethnographies of the colonial era.

This panel brings together the latest research on 'in-country' development practitioners of the global south, deepening scholarly knowledge by shedding light on the experiences and interests, extent of agency and capacities of this under-researched community.

While the roles and relationships between 'new' actors and stakeholders in development have been widely discussed, extant development personnel have been largely, and to some extent controversially, characterised as missionaries, mercenaries or misfits. 'Opening up' and de-colonising development research as well as practice, the extent to which national development experts and professionals confirm or disrupt these stereotypes is explored in this panel.

The conveners are already in contact with several potential contributors and we expect multiple submissions following an open call, such that two panel sessions may be justified.