The relationship between academic anthropology and the development establishment is widely seen as awkward, if not profoundly uncertain and disquieting. This panel seeks to investigate whether and how critical anthropology could reconsider engaging with development thinking and interventions.
Development discourse, development thinking, development interventions and development institutions are an inescapable part of the landscape in the contemporary Global South. Anthropologists concerned with Asia, Africa and Latin America run into the development establishment at every turn, and this is an encounter that usually provokes lingering feelings of uncertainty and disquiet. Should anthropologists concentrate on the task of critique and rigidly maintain our distance from the development community? Given that development is a key concern for the people and the movements we are involved with, this does not always seem to be a viable option. At the other extreme, must we fashion ourselves into bespoke producers of policy-relevant research on demand? Also, in our pedagogic practice, as we train students hoping to make a difference in the world, should we be warning them away from the siren-call of the development establishment? Or are there forms of engagement that can bring critique and practice closer to each other? This panel seeks to discuss whether it is possible, and if so, how it is possible for critical anthropology to reconsider its engagement with development.