Accepted paper:

Human rights and the (de)-politicisation of development's futures? : Critical development after the MDGs


Su-ming Khoo (National University of Ireland, Galway)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers the project of ‘development’ and the futures of critical development theory after the MDGs. It explores a central dilemma of rights, the tension between the collective politics of developmentalism and (de/re)-politicising normative and performative forms of humanitarianism.

Paper long abstract:

'Development' is a term that signifies both hegemonic futurity and resistance on a global scale. This paper considers the state of critical development theory and the global 'development consensus' before and after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000-2015). Development debates divide advocates of the market, the 'developmental state' and the human subject of liberal development theory. Human rights based approaches (HRBA) attempt to offer an alternative to the market's 'stark utopia'. Yet a tension remains, within the human rights canon and its instruments, between collective socio-economic developmentalism and the free, individual liberal subject. 'Third generation' collective rights emerged in the 1970s, alongside self-determination, the right to existence, indigenous rights and minority rights. Such claims cut across discourses of economic and political nationalism and decolonization, although the latter persist in the face of globalization and fragmentation. The paper explores this central dilemma of rights, examining the tensions between the collective politics of developmentalism and the de-politicising and re-politicising potentials of normative and performative forms of humanitarianism, including 'human rights', 'human development' , 'humanitarian assistance' and 'poverty reduction'. The discussion considers the central tensions/dilemmas between the collective political subjectivity and positionality of developmental claims/goods and a variety of normative humanitarian claims/goods and performativities that range from demands for 'meaningful participation' and alternative collective futures to banal celebrity humanitarianism. The potential of 'meaningful participation' to redefine and pluralise development's futures is explored through a consideration of three 'immediate action areas' of the Right to Development: food futures, health futures and education futures.

panel PE29
Dialectical Anthropology Panel A: producing political positions and political futures