Modernization 2.0: new directions in the anthropology of development

Richard Vokes (University of Western Australia)
Jonathan Fox (University of Adelaide)
Gertrude Atukunda (National Agricultural Research Organisation)
Penelope Harvey (University of Manchester)
Ligertwood 113
Start time:
14 December, 2017 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Development is always and everywhere an aspirational process. Against an image of development as a gradual process come increasingly extravagant ideas about what development may achieve, and how quickly.  This panel explores the origins and effects of 'inflated aspirationalism' in everyday lives.

Long abstract:

Development is always and everywhere an aspirational process. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly marked by an 'inflated aspirationalism'. Against a long-standing image of development as a process of incremental, and gradual change, official bodies are increasingly perceiving it as a mechanism for achieving radical economic, social and even political transformations, over ever-tighter timeframes. The drivers of this new aspirationalism are various, but include the vast amounts of new soft loans, and other 'cheap debt', that now enable governments, particularly throughout the developing world, to embark upon major programmes of investment in education, health, housing, industry, and (especially) infrastructure - all of which more or less explicitly aim to achieve rapid economic 'take-off', accelerated social 'uplift', and sometimes even instant political 'disruption'. At the same time, and serving to further raise expectations over what these programmes might achieve, are the offerings by these same governments, of futuristic - at times fantastical - images within all manner of political advertising (from billboards to brochures, and newspaper advertising). The aim of this panel is to explore - through detailed ethnographic studies, from all over the world - both the origins and effects of this inflated aspirationalism. We are particularly interested in how ordinary people relate to it, and what effects it has on their engagement with the state, their perceptions of social change, and their imaginaries of the future.