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Accepted paper:

Affective Auditing: Suspicion, refusal, and anger in development bureaucracy


Miriam Hird-Younger (University of Toronto)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that audits of international development projects are far from technical, but are rather highly emotional processes. Examining moments of "affective auditing" in Ghana reveals the political contestations of unequal power between local civil society and international donors.

Paper long abstract:

Under mandates of "good governance," audits are considered important for demonstrating the accountability and inclusiveness of development aid. In this paper, I aim to show that donor audits are not limited to technical bureaucracy, but are highly emotional processes that lay bare the political inequalities of development relationships. Literature has shown that the complex issues of development are not so easily managed by efforts to apply technical and apolitical solutions. This paper builds on these rejections of technocratic approaches to illuminate another aspect of the politics of aid - the dynamic emotional underpinnings of everyday development bureaucracy. I focus on the experiences of national Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in Ghana to ask how are NGOs enrolled in, contesting, and negotiating audits? As a country that has been called a "success story" of good governance, Ghana is an illustrative context to examine bureaucratic negotiations within development. This paper draws on anthropology of emotions to take seriously the anger, frustration, and confusion of NGO staff during audit procedures. The paper also explores the suspicion and mistrust inherent within increasingly stringent auditing requirements and the ways these are received and negotiated by NGOs. These moments of what I call "affective auditing" reveal the unequal power relations with donors and the ways that emotions become a means for NGOs to navigate the politics of development projects. I propose that these emotionally charged moments within audits become sites at which national NGOs can affectively, if not always effectively, contest unequal power relations with international donors.

panel AA09
The Politics of Emotion across Anthropology and Geography