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Human Organization, Vol. 61, No.

4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 by the Society for Applied Anthropology

Anthropology and Development:

Evil Twin or Moral Narrative?
David D. Gow
The academy has chosen to categorize development anthropology as the discipline’s evil twin, since the livelihoods of those
in the academy depend upon the intensive study of those whom development anthropology would change forever. But
development anthropology can also be viewed as a project that provides a moral narrative, based on ethical concerns, that
justifies involvement in the fate of others. These concerns are examined through four lenses: the postmodern critique of
anthropology, an examination of what development anthropologists really do, the argument for an engaged anthropology,
and the contribution of development ethics. By embedding development anthropology in this broader philosophical and
historical context, it can then be viewed, and perhaps appreciated, as the discipline’s moral—rather than its evil—twin.

Key words: values, ethics, praxis, meaning, engagement, development anthropology

This is the power of development: the power academic anthropology and development anthropology, in
to transform old worlds, the power to which the former views the latter as second-rate, both intel-
imagine new ones. lectually and morally (Gow 1993), and the latter views the
Jonathan Crush, 1995:2 former as irrelevant, both theoretically and politically (Little
and Painter 1995), has been characterized as an ongoing fam-
Development is the management of a promise— ily dispute (Ferguson 1997). Given that this debate has been
and what if the promise does not deliver? going on for 50 years or so, at least since the time of Cornell
Jan Nederveen Pieterse, 2000:176 University’s Vicos Project in Peru in the 1950s, if not before,
one can conclude that this inherent tension may have become
Why should we follow the local ideas, rather an integral characteristic of the relationship (Doughty 1986).
than the best ideas we can find? But anthropology as discipline and profession is home to an
Martha Nussbaum, 2000:49 increasingly complicated relationship among academic an-
thropologists who do not undertake applied work, academic
Anthropology and Development anthropologists who do, and practicing anthropologists who

have no direct relationship with the academy. In practice, then,
this strained relationship may spread its net quite broadly,
he anthropological engagement with development
continues to be contested, contentious, and criti-cized—but more pitting academic against academic and academic against
from the anthropological than the developmental side, a process practioner (Nolan 2002). To state that these differ-ences may
that has increasingly assumed an air of permanence, perhaps have faded, as least in the United States, while debates over
exacerbated by the growing number of anthropologists directly or
indirectly involved in development. The strained relationship that postmodern issues of discourse, agency, author-ity, and
exists between
reflexivity continue to resonate elsewhere—implying that
these issues have little or nothing to contribute to the debate—
is to run the risk of blinkering, hobbling, perhaps maiming
David Gow is the Baker Professor of Anthropology and International anthropology’s engagement with development, both within
Affairs at George Washington University, where he directs the master’s and outside the academy (Horowitz 1998a). There has been a
program in international development studies. The research for this
article was supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for
tendency for those more applied to cavalierly ignore concepts
Anthropological Research and the Elliott School of International Af-fairs that are prefixed with “post”: postdevelopment,
at George Washington University. The author would like to ac-knowledge postmodernism, and poststructuralism.
the thoughtful and provoking insights offered by two anony-mous This dispute within the academy involves both intimacy
reviewers on an earlier draft of this article. In addition, he would also like
and resentment, as well as a certain element of inevitability:
to thank his graduate students in development studies, whose moral
intelligence provided inspiration for this article. the livelihoods of those in the academy depend upon the in-
tensive study of those whom development anthropology
would change forever. Not for nothing has the academy

VOL. 61, NO. 4, WINTER 2002 299

labeled development its evil twin: “A twin that can seem-ingly Inverting Escobar (1991), I will argue that development
never be embraced, accepted, or liked; but which just won’t anthropologists have not necessarily taken development for
leave” (Ferguson 1997:170). The key word here is “evil,” granted and accepted it as the normal state of affairs. Their
defined by Webster as “morally bad or wrong;… causing pain involvement has in many cases been prompted more by ethi-
or trouble; offensive or disgusting;…threatening or bringing cal than by professional concerns. I shall try to demonstrate
misfortune.” Once again, development anthro-pology is that these ethical concerns are not just an expression of self-
damned in moral terms, based partially on its fail-ure, perhaps righteous high-mindedness, but are rather an inheritance from
unwillingness would be more apposite, to conform to the the discipline’s roots in the Enlightenment on the one hand
culture of its own discipline. But also, one suspects, this and the continuing passage of “enlightened” legislation by the
damnation results from its perceived failure to “improve” or United Nations and some of its specialized agencies on the
“civilize” the process of development. Had the subfield clearly other. That development, specifically those projects and
demonstrated that it had made a “difference for the better,” programs in which anthropologists have chosen to become
then it is tempting to think the criticisms from within the involved, may not have changed things for the better may say
academy might be more muted. This is particu-larly so, given more about development and its problems than anthro-pology
recent critiques of the field and the call for viewing and its purported shortcomings. While there may be no long-
anthropological knowledge as a form of situated in-tervention, term “solutions” to the problems of development, at the very
“as a way of pursuing specific political aims while least these programs may have prevented the situa-tion from
simultaneously seeking lines of common political purpose getting even worse.
with allies who stand elsewhere” (Gupta and Ferguson I am interested in answering the following questions:
1997:38-39). What values underlie development anthropology? Where do
Evil is not a word normally associated with anthropol- these ideas come from? What gives development anthropolo-
ogy, academic or applied. By using such a word, Ferguson, gists their “moral authority”? What is the meaning of devel-
perhaps inadvertently, raises some more profound issues opment? Partial answers to these questions will hopefully
re-lating to the differences between the two, namely that of contribute to Ferguson’s (1997) plea that we engage in some
val-ues and ethics, as well as that of meaning. In the case foundational work to reconfigure the epistemic terrain upon
of development anthropology, such issues, if they are which the divided house of anthropology now stands.
mentioned at all, are usually only lightly touched upon, and The paper is divided into four parts. In the first, I argue
often in rather general humanistic terms. It is my that the various “posts”—postdevelopment, postmodernism,
contention that one way to better understand—and perhaps and poststructuralism can make a constructive contribution to
appreciate— development anthropology is through a development anthropology. In the second, I discuss what
critical analysis of the values, specifically the ethics, anthropologists “really” do in terms of theory, policy, and
underlying this subfield, as demonstrated in the writings practice, with particular emphasis on the effects of their en-
and practices of those an-thropologists actively engaged deavors. In the third, I present and analyze recent arguments
with development, and the extent to which their work has put forward for an engaged anthropology. In the final sec-tion,
made a difference, presum-ably for the better. I relate these anthropological justifications for interven-tion
I shall take as my point of departure the designation of with some of the broader questions being raised in the field of
development anthropology as evil. While this may be the view development ethics and suggest areas of concern for an
of some within the academy, it is not widely shared outside. In engaged anthropology of development.
fact, I shall try to argue the opposite, that development
anthropology is a moral project, that the justification and ra- Postdevelopment, Postmodernism, and
tionale for its very existence are based on strong ethical prin- Poststructuralism
ciples. I hope to show that development anthropology is a
moral narrative—“the stories we tell that make sense of dis- The postmodern challenge to the anthropological engage-
tant places and explain why we should get involved in their ment with development has been most effectively mounted by
plight” (Ignatieff 1997:97). Ferguson (1997) expresses deep Escobar (1991, 1995), who, over the years, has been sub-
concern that the academic critique of development appears to jected to a barrage of criticism from his peers (see Edelman
have little impact on the world of development, a critique that 1999: chapter 1; Grillo 1997; Healy 2001: chapter 15; and
could be broadened to include more applied anthropo-logical Little and Painter 1995). That his work has aroused such
work. One obvious reason may be that so much of the strong feelings would indicate that his criticisms were not
criticism is damning, self-serving, and counterproductive. only taken seriously, but that they may also have hit hard. The
While the critics raise important questions, they rarely provide most recent critique (Little 2000) succinctly summarizes
any practical “solutions” (Escobar 1995; Ferguson 1994). But development anthropology’s principal preoccupations with his
another reason may be, as several critics have argued, that approach; first, the rejection of any comparative under-
anthropological knowledge while privileged in theory, more standing of culture and society; second, the rejection of any
often than not falls on deaf ears—simplicity and repetition win comparative, systematic methodology in favor of “thick,”
out over complexity and innovation (Hoben 1989). descriptive ethnography and discursive analysis; third, the


inability or unwillingness to recognize that development in- not to argue that there is only one discourse, the discourse of
stitutions are extremely heterogenous; and, finally, the lack of development (Grillo 1997). There are obviously several dis-
realistic alternatives to development and a return to a form of courses, not only those associated with institutions, but also
grassroots populism. While these points are certainly rel- those associated with specific disciplines. In a later article,
evant, I would like to demonstrate some of Escobar’s strengths Escobar (1997) explains that a poststructural approach high-
and contributions to the study of development. lights the role of language and meaning in the constitution of
On a more general level, Escobar’s comments should be social reality. As a result, language and discourse are seen not
viewed within the broader context of the postmodern critique as reflections of social reality, but as constitutive of it. This
of academic anthropology, namely the writing of texts, the approach contrasts sharply with the common sense view of
question of representation, and the establishment of author-ity, language underlying much of the writing in development
in this case developmental.1 On the more specific level of anthropology, which holds that our experience of the world,
development, Escobar (1991) criticizes the anthropologi-cal and by association of development, is not affected by the form
involvement on various grounds: anthropologists’ uncriti-cal and content of language since it is viewed as a neutral tool for
acceptance of prevailing development paradigms; their thought (Jordan 1991).
support of development institutions’ preoccupation with pov- Ferguson (1994) demonstrates what this means in prac-
erty alleviation as a means of defusing potentially explosive tice for Lesotho, by comparing what the World Bank wrote
situations; and, most provocatively, the claim that anthro- about the country in 1975 with readily available scholarly
pologists have chosen to become part of the problem, rather writings on the same topic. The differences are startling: by
than the solution (ibid.:667): creating, or rather reinventing, Lesotho as a “traditional, back-
ward” country desperately in need of “development,” the
There is also an apparent neutrality in identifying people as World Bank could justify its assistance and the type of insti-
a “problem” without realizing, first, that this definition of tutions and programs necessary to solve the “problems.”
the “problem” has already been put together in Wash-
ington or some capital city of the Third World; second, that
Ferguson also introduces Foucault’s concept of govern-
problems are defined in such a way that some devel- mentality, the belief in the central, determining role of na-
opment program has to be accepted as a legitimate solu- tional government—“neutral, unitary, and effective”—in
tion; and, finally, that along with this “solution” come solving a country’s development problems through mecha-
administrative measures that make people conform to the nisms of control and domination, thereby highlighting the
institution’s discursive and practical universe.
political character of the state and downplaying any political
conflict that may impinge upon the development “interven-
Above all, Escobar is interested in the relationship be-
tions” proposed. He also questions our obsession with de-
tween knowledge and power, a theme explored further in his
velopment “failure,” but failure according to whom? Ferguson
1995 book, where he directly addresses one of the major para-
offers the critical observation that what is perhaps most im-
doxes of our times: the relationship between the discourse of
portant about a development program is not so much what it
development and the practice of development. Instead of re-
fails to do, but what it does do. He suggests that there is an
ducing the incidence of underdevelopment, there has been an
unspoken logic underlying such failures: they may be better
increase, both within and between countries. To answer this
viewed as “instrument-effects”—effects that, on closer in-
question, he adopts a Foucauldian perspective and pro-poses
spection, turn out to be an exercise of power.
to examine development as a discursive formation that
But this critique of anthropological engagement with de-
systematically relates forms of knowledge and techniques of
velopment should also be considered within the broader con-
power. To understand development discourse, we must ex-
amine the relations among the various elements that consti- text of contemporary critiques of development itself—
tute the discourse, rather than the elements per se, since it is postdevelopment attempts to demonstrate why development
the system that determines what can be thought and what can interventions do not work. The enduring persistence of pov-
be said, framing what is acceptable and what is not, and erty is a major challenge, and postdevelopment is based on the
setting: “[T]he rules that must be followed for this or that premise that attaining a middle-class lifestyle for the majority
problem, theory, or object to emerge and be named, analyzed, of the world population is impossible. While postdevelopment
and eventually transformed into a policy or plan” (Escobar includes many strands, among the more contentious issues are
1995:41). Development discourse provides a justification for the problematization of poverty, the portrayal of development
“development,” externally induced, with its own definition of as a form of westernization, and the critique of modernism and
the problem and ways it can be addressed, neither of which science (Nederveen Pieterse 2000). While there are legitimate
may have much grounding in reality. Problems can be rein- grounds for these critiques, postdevelopment is often faulted
vented or recast to conform with the prevailing dominant ide- —as Escobar has been— for not presenting viable
ology, the “development gaze” of those in power (ibid.:155). alternatives; in other words, for not being instrumental
The primary purpose of development discourse is to (ibid.:188):
“convince, to persuade, that this (and not that) is the way the
‘Post-development’ is misconceived because it at-
world is and ought to be amended” (Crush 1995:5). This is tributes to ‘development’ a single and narrow meaning,

VOL. 61, NO. 4, WINTER 2002 301

a consistency that does not match either theory or policy, ethically and professionally acceptable. In fact, what he is
and thus replicates the rhetoric of developmentalism, rather proposing is a contemporary version of anthropological author-
than penetrating and exposing its polysemic reali-ties … it
ity, in this case developmental authority, in which the social
presents a conventional and narrow view of glo-balization,
equated with homogenisation. scientist—and only the social scientist—is uniquely positioned to
decide for and speak on behalf of local people (ibid.:31):
Nustad (2001) questions this bleak assessment—
understanding why certain types of intervention do not work The social scientist is the only kind of expert who is pro-
fessionally trained to “listen to the people.” Social knowl-
provides a possible basis for explanation. In the case of
edge thus developed becomes a “hearing system” able to
Ferguson, he argues that the depoliticization of development amplify the listening for managers and policymakers too.
and the spread of bureaucratic power relations in Lesotho did
not result so much from bad faith on the part of the de- This “social engineering action model,” embedded in the
velopers. These changes were, perhaps, due more to their belief that social knowledge should be used “purposively
“growth of ignorance” (Hobart 1993). In the case of partici- to organize new social action and relationships,” is
patory development, he cites the critique of Cowen and contrasted with the “enlightenment model,” which, based
Shenton (1995). If the goal of development is to offer people on a belief in education, “implies a tortuous, uncertain, and
more choices in determining their futures, this presupposes “a slow way to return the benefits of social knowledge to
desire and capacity to choose, as well as a knowledge of society and influ-ence its progress” (ibid.:29). In other
possible choices” (ibid.:4). But these factors are often con- words, social engineer-ing is associated with action,
sidered a precondition for development as well as the goal for certainty, hierarchy, and the right of a professional elite to
development. The missing link is trusteeship—an indi-vidual make decisions affecting the lives of others, all justified in
or institution who guides and controls the develop-ment the name of social science and so-cial knowledge.
process. To deal with these critiques, Nustad cites the critical A more modest approach is advocated by Alan Hoben,
need to study manifestations of development on the ground in one of the first anthropologists to occupy a senior position in
concrete encounters, specifically examining how poverty is USAID, and also one of the first, if not the first, to write about
produced, and the relationship between processes that produce the anthropological experience of working for devel-opment
wealth and poverty. institutions. He proposed that development anthro-pology
could provide a critical, but productive contribution, by
What Do Development Anthropologists Really Do? challenging and clarifying many of the assumptions un-
derlying development policies (Hoben 1982:370):
While development anthropologists can play various
roles and occupy a variety of positions, they perform three Its [development anthropology’s] most valuable contri-
overlapping functions: “They collect and analyze informa- bution to development work is to challenge and clarify, and
tion; they help design plans and policies; and they carry out hence to help revise, explicit and implicit assump-tions
these plans through action” (Nolan 2002:72, emphasis in made by those responsible for planning and imple-menting
development policies about problems to be solved and
original). This anthropological engagement is based on the about the institutional linkages between proposed policy
strong belief that the selective use of anthropological knowl- interventions and their impact on income, asset
edge can make a difference for the better, though there is distribution, employment, health, and nutrition.
considerable divergence of opinion on how this knowledge
can be most effectively utilized. In his recent book, Nolan This anthropological willingness to “challenge and to
(2002:253) categorically states that the discipline has no clarify”—in other words, to be critical—is one which has
framework for the application of this knowledge. At one ex- often been sadly lacking, at least from the applied prospect
treme is Michael Cernea, employed for many years at the (Chambers 1987). For Hoben (1982:369), development
World Bank, who has perhaps contributed more than any other anthropology’s contributions lie primarily in policy and
social scientist to making the case for the positive contribu- plan-ning, in providing a view of development from below,
tions of anthropological knowledge (Cernea 1995). His work and in clarifying the organization, interests, and strategies
is characterized by a strong faith in a modified form of social of local elites and bureaucrats.
engineering (Cernea 1991:29, emphasis added): Michael Horowitz, director of the Institute for Develop-
ment Anthropology (IDA) and another of the first anthro-
The social engineering action model is rooted in knowl- pologists to work for USAID, has pinpointed the various
edge of the social fabric and dynamics. It postulates the functional areas in which he believes that development
translation of social science knowledge into new knowl- anthropology has made a major contribution. These range
edge and change tools, and uses this knowledge purpos-
ively to organize new social action and relationships. from involuntary relocation, colonization, and resettlement to
the relevance of local organizations and the nature of elites
Cernea justifies this model on the grounds that better (Horowitz 1996a). Reiterating Cernea, however, he admits
social knowledge can be used to democratize the planning that—at least until the late 1980s—development
process and facilitate broader participation, a perspective both anthropologists failed to communicate the results of this work


beyond the profession. Little (2000) has clearly demonstrated way related to the quality of the work—the difference lay
the contributions of anthropological research to a better un- in the manager who decided to act on the information:
derstanding of such topics as the household economy, com- “Our problem is not one of analysis or methodology; it is
mon property systems, and formal and informal economies. In one of taking action on recommendations that fly in the
his Malinowski Award Lecture, Cernea (1995) elaborated face of pow-erful political interests” (ibid.:207).
upon this, emphasizing the importance of the study of pat- Horowitz (1999) tells a similar story about IDA’s par-
terns of social organization as a means of improving the man- ticipation in a long-term study of population resettlement from
agement of development, as well as the various policy do- the reservoir above the Manantali Dam on a major tributary of
mains to which anthropology has contributed—social, the Senegal River in Mali. The government of Senegal, the
sectoral, socioeconomic, and environmental. principal actor among the three countries involved, amended
This belief in the practical relevance of anthropological its master plan to incorporate IDA’s major recom-mendations.
knowledge has been—and continues to be—widespread This unusually positive reception was due to a variety of
within the field of development practitioners (Gardner and factors: the multinational, interdisciplinary com-position of
Lewis 1996). But there is little empirical evidence to sub- the research team; the close collaboration with the national
stantiate these claims, apart from isolated case studies of spe- government; and the distribution of IDA’s report to the local
cific development activities where the anthropological con- population, translated into their language, among others. But
tribution has been well documented (Bennett 1996). The the World Bank, the major donor involved, re-fused to support
Agroforestry Outreach Project in Haiti is one such project the changes despite direct representations on the part of
(Murray 1997) and the International Potato Center in Peru is concerned parties in Washington, including the Environmental
another (Rhoades 1986). Protection Agency, the Department of the Treasury, and
Cernea often refers to a much-cited comparative study in USAID (Horowitz 1998). Horowitz explains the bank’s
which Conrad Kottak (1991) undertook a content analysis of intransigence as a result of two factors—pressure from the
the evaluations of 68 development projects financed by the French who wanted to see French companies in-volved in
World Bank to assess the contribution of “sociocultural implementing the project in their former colonies, and the
compatibility” to project success. Sociocultural compatibil-ity bank’s claim that the dam in question had improved the living
referred to the extent to which the project fit with local conditions of the local people. As he justifiably asks: Where
culture, and project success was measured in terms of eco- were the anthropologists within the World Bank?
nomic rate of return. Those projects judged socioculturally On a more optimistic tone, and with a more forward-
compatible, with a demonstrated understanding and analysis looking frame of mind, Robert and Beverly Hackenberg
of social conditions, were found to have a rate of return more (1999), in their Malinowski Award Lecture, reviewed the
than twice as high as those judged deficient in these areas. dif-fering societal levels at which applied anthropology has
One of the major problems with this analysis is, however, the in-tervened: community; developing city, borderlands, and
very narrow definition of development, restricted to the rate of the “postcolonial map,” this latter described as a more
return on the bank’s investment, a datum that says nothing global perspective on the borderlands, characterized by
about many of the other goals of development that may decentering, deterritorialization, diaspora, delocalization,
interest anthropologists, such as equity, poverty allevia-tion, and transnationalism (Kearney 1995). 3 Drawing on their
environmental sustainability, and empowerment, to name the own considerable experience working in the United States
more enduring. and the developing world, the Hackenbergs take a more
No one, I think, is questioning the claim that anthropo- induc-tive approach to the question of the effect of
logical knowledge can contribute to improving the develop- anthropological knowledge, arguing instead that the
ment process.2 The question is not so much what anthropol- knowledge and experi-ence, the praxis if you will, gained
ogy has to offer, but rather how it can effectively contribute. In from designing and implementing applied projects can
other words, how can the anthropological voice be heard and form the basis for policy formulation.
acted upon? Here, I would like to offer some additional At the level of the postnational map, which exists as a
evidence to ponder: first, personal “testimony” from two well- concept rather than a dimensional reality, they focus on the
respected experts in the field; second, some policy-related borderlands—“[which] is a ‘point of articulation’—perhaps a
evidence from two other authorities; and, finally, some com- point of collision would describe it more accurately—at which
parative material on the effects of social analysis on the think- the intersection of unidentified and unplanned deter-minants
ing and actions of the donor community. produces a kaleidoscope of unpredicted conse-quences”
In addressing this question, William Partridge (1995), (ibid.:9). Among the issues they address, the solutions to
employed for many years by the World Bank, focuses on the which they believe anthropological knowl-edge can
political dimension, comparing two resettlement programs, contribute, are management of natural resources,
one in India and the other in Guatemala, for which he pro- environmental consequences of development, the traffic in
vided anthropological input. In the first case, his findings were people, the informal economy, and concern for endangered
rejected, while in the second they were warmly accepted. species. This will be achieved, echoing Partridge and
From his perspective, these contrasting responses were in no Horowitz, through political authority—being actively engaged

VOL. 61, NO. 4, WINTER 2002 303

in policy making and policy promotion—and moral author- resources, roads, education and training, health, and urban
ity: “The attempt to leverage a policy issue in the direction issues (Rew and Bunting 1992). The study concentrated on
of a favorable outcome rests primarily on our capacity to final evaluation reports on projects completed in the 1980s
involve and manipulate universal human values, and focus and tried to establish the degree of interest in sociocultural
them on specific issues” (ibid.:11). factors within the text, specifically the degree to which such
This increasing emphasis on anthropology’s potential factors were recognized and used. To the researchers’ sur-
contribution to policy formulation has been enthusiastically prise, 75 percent of the reports mentioned sociocultural fac-
embraced by Cernea. In his Malinowski Award Lecture, he tors in one way or another, but often as a form of catchall
focuses on the issue of resettlement policy where both he, residual category for problems that could not be explained by
and the World Bank, have made significant contributions. technical or economic analyses. Cultural and social con-
What is not addressed, however, is how problematic policy siderations were generally considered beyond the purview of
implementation has proved to be, as demonstrated by the project design and implementation, though this did not
find-ings from the bank’s worldwide study of its own preclude inclusion of a social scientist on technical assistance
resettle-ment programs, which concluded that “lack of teams. Nevertheless, as with the review of USAID, it was
attention to social impacts of displacement caused long- difficult to establish the extent of such social scientists’ im-
term impover-ishment in affected populations (World Bank pact on either design or implementation.4
1994:9, cited in Horowitz 1996b:6). Assessments of the World Bank’s performance in the field of
Social analysis is often regarded as one of anthropology’s social analysis vary considerably. A study of anthropologists
major contributions to donor-supported development (Nolan working within the bank in the 1990s revealed that even among
2002:167-171), although a strong case can be made that suc- themselves there was no consensus (Kaminskis 2000:41):
cess or failure in development has little to do with the quality
of the social analysis in particular, or project designs in gen- Anthropologist A: The Bank’s attitude has…changed dra-
eral, which are basically advocacy documents to obtain fund- matically. Ten years ago it was more difficult for an an-
thropologist to voice concerns about the social impact (or
ing, not planning documents to facilitate implementation. lack of it) of a project. Anthropologists were looked at as a
Some critics argue that serious planning only begins once the rather eccentric people, interesting in nature, but not really
funds are approved (Grindle 1980). Based on two de-cades of instrumental for the work the Bank does. Nowa-days,
work within the World Bank, Cernea (1996:10, emphasis in things have changed. The serious and effective work by
original) categorically—and pragmatically— states that: “For senior anthropologists has gained respect and accep-tance
from the institution, in benefit of the more junior
all these reasons—economic, social, moral, financial—social anthropologists in the institution.
analysis is not only instrumental but, in my view, is
indispensable. It directly increases the success of programs.” This relatively positive appraisal received additional support in an
But comparative reviews of the effects of such analyses tend article written by two anthropologists, at that time em-ployed by
to question this assumption. the World Bank, on the process of institutionalizing social
A 1989 review of USAID’s experiences with social analysis within the institution. From their perspective, such
analysis drew on interviews, case studies, and a review of analysis had resulted in tangible improvements to “opera-tional
project documentation from 1975 to 1989 in the fields of design” by mitigating the adverse social impacts of projects,
health, agriculture, and the private sector (Gow et al. 1989). maximizing their social benefits, and ensuring their “fit” for those
While those interviewed noted that the introduction of social supposed to benefit (Francis and Jacobs 1999). But this view was
analysis had a positive impact on USAID’s sensitivity to not shared by all (Kaminskis 2000:37):
human, cultural, and institutional issues, they also noted sev-
eral shortcomings: the need for better integration with other Anthropologist B: Personally, I think that some people are
analyses; the need to address the broader spectrum of the really, really careful about social impacts and others are
agency’s priorities; and the need to offer concrete practical not. So you have the people who do it because they believe
solutions and alternatives. Case study material corroborated in it, the others who do it because they don’t have an
alternative, and others who try to skip as much as they can.
these findings: social analysis was most effective when it …In some cases it’s not the money…it’s more the attitudes
offered practical solutions and alternatives to potential prob- of the Task Managers because if the Task Man-ager wants
lems, at both the design and the implementation phases. Al- to do it, he or she finds the money. Some-times, even if the
though the documentation review indicated that the feasibil-ity money is there, they don’t want to do it.
component, in theory the one that takes the closest look at
potential implementation problems, showed the closest cor- One major criticism of the bank’s approach to social
relation with project success, the overall relationship was not analysis is the lack of attention to structural factors, such as
as strong as predicted. the distribution of assets, income, and power across class,
Rew (1997) reports on a similar, but much broader docu- gender, and ethnicity, all of which may severely affect hu-man
ment review conducted in the United Kingdom, using readily well-being (Francis 2001; Horowitz 1996b). These res-
available project reports from five development institutions, ervations were substantiated in a subsequent World Bank
one multilateral and four bilateral, across five sectors—natural (1999) review of 100 projects and their progress in


operationalizing social issues, which faulted the institution for emerged at the turn of the century as a form of American
widely neglecting gender issues and social impact moni- egalitarian populism—“that anything that deprives people
toring. More seriously, however, the report highlighted the of their needs or desires should be changed or reformed”—
routine neglect of social factors in the design of structural later to be updated as a form of New Deal humanitarian
adjustment programs, made more egregious by the fact that liberal-ism. He cites the work of Laura Thompson, “the
explicit objectives for poverty reduction are articulated in the great articu-lator of applied ideology in the 1950-60s,” to
bank’s own directives for such programs (Francis 2001:86), demonstrate his point:
reinforcing the point made earlier when talking about the
problems of implementing resettlement policies— the lack of In essence it [applied anthropology] symbolizes both
political authority. Reviewing the anthropo-logical the desire and desirability of human beings to fulfill
them-selves individually and collectively to the
contribution to public policy—and the frustrations involved— maximum of their physical-emotional-intellectual
on such issues as globalization, social welfare, agriculture, the powers, and to do both as single personalities and in
environment, and social inequality, Okongwu and Mencher relation to other per-sonalities (Thompson 1965:290-
(2000) challenge anthologists not only to for-mulate 291, cited in Bennett 1996:S30).
alternative policies, but also to work as advocates, to become
more engaged with the people they study, and to lobby for Allowing for a few small semantic changes, this credo is
change. one that many contemporary development anthropologists
could and would support, a credo that has its origins in the
The Case for an Engaged Anthropology Enlightenment and the belief in human perfectability, that
“progress” was dependent upon people’s rational efforts to
In spite of the ambiguous nature of anthropology’s perfect themselves and their institutions (Bidney 1970:185).
contribu-tions to development, voices were clearly raised As a result, the prevailing criterion of progress was in the
throughout the 1990s arguing for anthropology’s moral direction of greater rationality (Harris 1968:38), a measure
involvement (Horowitz 1996a:328): that failed to capture the chaos, disorder, and irrationality of
the ensuing process. Recent scholarship, drawing on the work
[I]t is morally necessary for anthropology to become cen- of Saint-Simon, Comte, and particularly John Stuart Mill, has
trally engaged in today’s critical issues—poverty, power- questioned the tendency to equate progress with devel-opment
lessness, environmental degradation, and national, class, on the grounds that development can only be achieved if and
caste, gender, ethnic, religious, and racial oppressions—
when an element of order is introduced (Cowen and Shenton
and that anthropology has important contributions yet to
make about the kinds of formations that will characterize 1995).
human social life in the twenty-first century. This reformist tendency has been present in anthropol-
ogy since the early 20th century, as personified by Franz Boas
This moral imperative is reiterated in two books published speaking truth to power in his battles against racism and cul-
in the 1990s. In the first, Anthropology, Development and tural chauvinism. In this, he was motivated by his belief in
the Post-Modern Challenge, Garner and Lewis (1996:157) humanism, his secular faith which prompted him to act. For
argue that: Boas, the role of the anthropologist was both intellectual and
moral: “the advancement of reason through science and the
There are moral absolutes in the world…. People have a conquest of tradition, irrationality, and injustice” (Rabinow
right to basic material needs; they also have a right to 1983:69). More explicitly (Lewis 2001:447, emphasis added):
fulfil their individual potential, whether this involves
be-coming literate, retaining their cultural identity or
their freedom, having the means to generate an income, Franz Boas was passionately and consistently concerned
or whatever. about human rights and individual liberty, freedom of in-
quiry and speech, equality of opportunity, and the defeat of
prejudice and chauvinism. He struggled for a lifetime to
In the second, Diagnosing America: Anthropology and advance a science that would serve humanity.
Pub-lic Engagement, the editor forthrightly declares
(Forman 1994:2): It is precisely this emphasis on the moral, and by association
the political, that has continued to trouble the academy,
Our choice is fundamentally value-driven. We begin with whether in the form of the D’Andrade/Scheper-Hughes de-
the assumption that all individuals and groups should be
able to exercise fundamental rights of political and cul-
bate in the mid-1990s or the more recent furor over Tierney’s
tural expression, fulfill their aspirations and potential, and (2000) exposé of the anthropological involvement with the
secure their physical and economic well-being. Yanomami of Brazil. D’Andrade (1995) feared that anthro-
pology is being transformed from a discipline based upon an
Yet little attention has been devoted to understanding or objective model of the world—one that gives information
explaining the values that motivate those who so choose to about the object being studied rather than our response to that
become involved. Bennett (1996:S29), in describing the rise thing—to one based upon a moral model of the world, the
of applied anthropology in the United States, suggests that it primary purpose of which is “to identify what is good

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and what is bad and to allocate reward and punishment” even if they occurred first in the West. For those involved in
(ibid.:399, emphasis in original). Among his many criticisms, applied and developmental work, the relationship has been
the major one was intellectual—the objective model provides more ambiguous. Supporters for the social, political, and
a surer understanding of how the world works: “anthropol-ogy cultural values of certain newly independent states often chose
can maintain its moral authority only on the basis of to ignore the growing incidence of human rights abuses re-
empirically demonstrable truths” (ibid.:408). sulting from political violence and repression (Washburn
For Scheper-Hughes (1995:416), “those of us who make 1987). But as the study and practice of development grew, do
our living observing and recording the misery of the world”— did the incidence of human rights abuses involving indig-
and I would include many development anthropologists in this enous people, those forced to relocate, and, more recently, the
category—“have a particular obligation to reflect criti-cally on victims of civil war and political violence, all of which have
how we choose to represent the human suffering that engages been topics of anthropological research and advocacy (Messer
us.” The shock effect soon dissipates as people— including 1993). But as the attention to human rights has in-creased so
anthropologists—learn to live with and accept this reality, has the criticism, directed particularly at their pur-ported
whether occurring “here” or “there,” by holding it at arm’s universalism. Human rights doctrine arouses strong
length. But this does not have to be. Responding to opposition precisely because it challenges the control exer-
D’Andrade, Scheper-Hughes agreed that there are two dis- cised by entrenched power on behalf of the powerless
tinctly anthropological ways of engaging with the world: the (Ignatieff 2001a:109):
spectator, neutral and objective, who observes and is above the
fray, accountable to “science”; and the witness, active and Rights are universal because they define the universal
morally committed, one who take sides and make judge- in-terests of the powerless—namely, that power be
ments, where the ethical is primary: “Anthropologists as wit- exercised over them in ways that respect their
autonomy as agents. In this sense, human rights
nesses are accountable for what they see and what they fail to represent a revolutionary creed, since they make a
see, how they act and how they fail to act in critical situations” radical demand of all human groups that they serve the
(ibid.:419). This implies both a specific positioning and the interests of the individuals who com-pose them.
responsibility of producing testimony, “a form of caring vigi-
lance” (Hebdidge 1993, cited in Malkki 1997:94). But Although never clearly articulated, much less acknowl-
paraphrasing Camus, this also implies that we “take the edged, it is the ambiguous legacy of the Enlightenment, with
victim’s side and the side of potential victims” (Schue its strong overtones of social engineering, social control, and
1980:33).5 “knowing trusteeship,” that has perhaps contributed most to
While the moral basis and justification for contempo- the moral basis of development anthropology. While the dis-
rary development anthropology can be situated within the courses of human rights and basic human needs have helped
historical context of both anthropology and development, establish and justify the minimum responsibilities of the state
and their relationship to the Enlightenment, a third toward its citizens, it is the Enlightenment’s contemporary
important source, albeit implicit, has been human rights, progeny, alternative development, that most clearly articu-
particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lates anthropology’s engagement with development, a com-
adopted by the United Nations in 1948. For Friedmann mitment characterized by strong moral values, an approach
(1992), the UN dec-laration established a code of moral which incorporates ideas of community, local control, and
conduct for how we treat each other as human beings, ecological concerns, ideas which often originate in the West.
specifically how the state is ex-pected to treat its citizens. Since national elites in the third world are generally corrupt
But in addition, it also established the basic principles that and show little interest in such populist approaches, the re-
can make possible the creation of a society where people sponsibility will fall upon the willing shoulders of interna-
can flourish, that is, those social condi-tions that can make tional development organizations: “trusteeship (though none
it possible for people to live up to their capacity. dare speak its name) will have to be exercised by the know-
Anthropology’s engagement with human rights has been ing and the moral on behalf of the ignorant and corrupt”
characteristically paradoxical and ambiguous. For the cul-tural (Cowen and Shenton 1995:43).
relativists, human rights are socially constructed and Nederveen Pieterse (1998) has argued that much of what
inseparable from the mentality of the Enlightenment, and, alternative development stands for—equity, participation,
hence, the product of a particular society at a particular time: empowerment, sustainability, and improved well-being—
Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. As a re-sult, consists of aspirations rather than attributes of development.
the UN declaration is universal only in pretension, not in As such, many of these aspirations can easily be added on or
practice (Wilson 1997), another “cunning exercise in West-ern incorporated into mainstream development discourse. For
moral imagination” (Ignatieff 2001a:102). More recently, him, these are normative orientations, a set of values that
Franck (2001) has argued that the human rights canon is full serve to justify, rather than explain, development.
of rules that are actually the products of historical processes— These values have been most clearly—and most
industrialization, urbanization, the communications and in- consistently—articulated by Robert Chambers. 6 Although not
formation revolutions—but which are replicable anywhere, an anthropologist, Chambers often thinks and writes like one.


He has often been labeled a “populist,” someone who “puts The Way Ahead for an Engaged Anthropology
the last first” and finds much of the academic literature on
development irrelevant for solving the more pressing social Underlying much of the contemporary discourse on de-
problems encountered in the third world. The model he velopment, postdevelopment, and alternative development is
pre-sents, as in much of his writing, is characterized by a an obsession with participation and empowerment, con-cepts
series of powerful binary oppositions, justified on moral that have only recently been subjected to critical scrutiny
and em-pirical grounds (Chambers 1997a, 1997b). But his (Henkel and Stirrat 2001). Part of the broad-based appeal of
writings are also, like much of development literature, participation lies in the fact that it can function as form of
remarkably apolitical—he rarely deals directly with the decentralization: it shifts the “ownership” of devel-opment
politics of development. projects, as well as the responsibility for the conse-quences of
Chambers terms his model “responsible well-being” the projects, from the development agencies to the local
and bases it on years of accumulated experience working in population, so that the latter are, in a sense, held accountable
the field with various applied research methodologies, for the actions of the former, who now become “mere”
particu-larly participatory rural appraisal (PRA).7 From this facilitators. The practical implications of empower-ment can
experi-ence he has distilled certain words and concepts, be more chilling. The key question that needs to be addressed
more moral and metaphysical than practical and is: Why are people “empowered”? They are being
developmental, words such as: commitment, “empowered” to “participate” in the project of modernity
disempowerment, doubt, fulfill-ment, fun, generosity, (ibid.:182):
responsibility, self-critical aware-ness, sharing, and trust
(Chambers 1997b:1748).8 This ex-perience has also the attempt to empower people through the projects en-
visaged and implemented by the practitioners of the new
reinforced the importance of the behavior and attitudes of
orthodoxy is always an attempt, however benevolent, to
those “doing development,” both of which, Chambers reshape the personhood of the participants. It is in this
tellingly comments, have been prominently ab-sent from sense that we argue that ‘empowerment’is tantamount to
most professional training and most development agendas. what Foucault calls subjection.
Combining locally defined concepts of well-being
(“the experience of good quality of life”) with that of Hence, development anthropology needs to move be-
personal re-sponsibility, Chambers creates the idea of yond these concepts and offer a clearer idea of what sort of
“responsible well-being” as an overarching end to which society it would like to create. In addition, there is a need to
all else—livelihood security, human capabilities, equity, bring politics back in—much of contemporary development
and sustainability— contributes, and to which the powerful discourse turns a blind eye to the issue of power and its dis-
and the wealthy have perhaps the most to contribute tribution in society. Given the increasing interest and impor-
(ibid.:1749, emphasis in original): tance attached to the concept of civil society, it is somewhat
surprising that anthropology has contributed so little, an odd
Responsible well-being recognizes obligations to others, omission since the concept includes various components, such
both those alive and future generations, and to their qual- as social relations and social organization, class and conflict,
ity of life. In general, the word responsible has moral force
and agency and autonomy, that were once the bread and but-
in proportion to wealth and power…. Responsible well-
being refers thus to doing as well as being: it is “by” as ter of the discipline. Discussions of civil society, in turn, raise
well as “for.” The objective of development then questions about the type of society desired (Howell and Pearce
becomes responsible well-being by all and for all. 2001:37):

With its emphasis on personal responsibility and equity, It [the concept of civil society] reflects a multiplicity of
the work of Chambers is imbued with a high moral serious- diverse and often diverging voices that share a wish to
ness, despite his disclaimer that this model is empirical and preserve a concern for a common humanity, undo the
nega-tive aspects of capitalist development, and
inductive. For better or worse, Chambers is making the case promote forms of economic organization that are
for personal conversion as the basis for development, a quasi- environmentally sus-tainable and socially just.
religious experience (Henkel and Stirrat 2001). For this rea-
son, the values he stresses relate much more to the work of To a certain extent, both development anthropology and
“moral” economists, such as Amartya Sen (1999), and moral development ethics, as well as human rights, have tended to
philosophers, such as Martha Nussbaum (2000), and those focus on the individual—on the one hand outlining the re-
who write about development ethics, authors such as David sponsibilities and obligations of the state (or its surrogates)
Crocker (1991) and Mozzafar Qizilbash (1996), than they do toward the individual, and on the other attempting to list the
to those who usually write about development. What he is necessary capabilities that will contribute toward the achieve-
writing about and what he is arguing for is the creation of a ment of human flourishing. Development ethics refers to “the
“just society,” both “here” and “there,” since the responsi- normative or ethical assessment of the ends and means of
bilities of northerners to “distant strangers” can only be met Third World and global development” (Crocker 1991:457).
by starting here, rather than there (Ignatieff 2001b). This definition, in turn, gives rise to two major questions:

VOL. 61, NO. 4, WINTER 2002 307

1) What ethical and other value issues emerge in develop- distinct in quality. Of particular relevance here is her claim
ment policies and practices and how should they be resolved?; that certain human capabilities exert a moral claim that they
and 2) What moral responsibilities, if any, do rich countries, should be developed. This she proposes as a freestanding
regions, and classes have toward impoverished countries, re- moral idea that does not rely on a particular metaphysical or
gions, and classes? Qizilbash (1996:1210) provides one pos- teleological view: her argument begins from ethical premises
sible answer to these questions when he suggests that ethical upon which she draws her ethical conclusions (ibid.:83).
development occurs “if and only if there is some overall ex- The list consists of ten capabilities, four of which I shall
pansion in human flourishing or the quality of human lives or mention here since they directly contribute to a better under-
human well-being consistent with the demands of social standing of the meaning of development and the values un-
justice and freedom.” derlying it. All four speak directly to both the quality and the
The UNDP’s Human Development Report (1990:1) owes meaning of life. The fourth—senses, imagination, and
a great deal to the work of Sen. Since the publication of the thought—argues for the capability to sense, to imagine, to
first such report, the focus has been on expanding people’s think, and to reason in a “truly human” way, informed and
choices: access to income, a long healthy life, education, a cultivated by an adequate education. It also includes being
decent standard of living, political freedom, guaranteed hu- able to search for the ultimate meaning of life, and this would
man rights, and personal self-respect. For the UNDP the ba-sic support personal autonomy. The sixth—practical reason—
objective of development has been to “create an enabling argues for the capability to conceive of the good and to be
environment for people to live long, healthy and creative critically reflective about the planning of one’s own life. This
lives” (ibid.:9, cited in Qizilbash 1996:1215). Subsequent would imply the fostering of a critical self-awareness within
reports have reiterated these themes, underlining the impor- the larger context of what constitutes “the good society.” The
tance of viewing human development as a process of enlarg- seventh—affiliation—is divided into two parts. The first un-
ing people’s choices and expanding human functions and derlines the capability to live with and for others, to demon-
capabilities, the range of things that people can do or be in life strate concern, empathy, and compassion, and to have the
(UNDP 2000:17). For the UNDP (2001:9), there are four capability for justice and friendship. This is another way of
essential capabilities for people: to lead a long and healthy stressing our responsibilities to others, both friends and
life, to be knowledgeable, to have the resources necessary for strang-ers. The second part argues against discrimination of
a decent standard of living, and to be able to participate in the all sorts in support of self-respect and nonhumiliation, where
life of the community. Underlying Sen’s (1995:75) approach a per-son is treated as a “dignified being whose worth is equal
and, of course, much of his work on development, is the to that of others” (ibid.:79). The tenth capability—control
importance of freedom; in fact, he views development over one’s environment—is also divided into two parts. The
primarily as a process of expanding human freedoms. first is political and deals with the capability to participate
Although Sen provides few specifics on which particu- effec-tively in political choices that govern one’s life, and the
lar capabilities should be included, these shortcomings sec-ond is material and argues for the importance of property
have been addressed by Nussbaum (2000), where, rights, not just formally but in terms of real opportunity on an
following Aristotle, she attempts to list those capabilities equal basis with others. This final capability is associated with
which will contribute to human flourishing, virtuous lives, certain rights, such as guarantees of freedom of speech and
and human justice by answering the central question: What association and of freedom from unwarranted search and
is a person able to do and to be? (ibid.:71). Underlying her seizure. Embedded in this list is a strong commitment to
approach is a focus on human dignity: while certain equal-ity, since discrimination in its various forms is viewed
functions are central to any understanding of what it is to as a type of indignity or humiliation (ibid.:86).10
be human, there is some-thing specifically human in the While these philosophical concepts may indeed contrib-
ways these functions are per-formed (ibid.:72): ute in some abstract way to better understanding of what
human flourishing implies, development anthropology needs
The core idea is that of the human being as a dignified to have a more practical, realistic vision in sight, one based on
free being who shapes his or her own life in cooperation what the poor themselves have to say. I would like to offer
and reciprocity with others, rather than being passively
shaped or pushed around by the world in the manner of two suggestions regarding how anthropologists can deal with
a “flock” or “herd” animal. A life that is really human is this. One way is through a reappraisal of the potential role of
one that is shaped throughout by these human powers of praxis in guiding how anthropologists should con-duct
practical reason and sociability. themselves. A second way is to think of the types of
development activities that could provide the foundations for
For Nussbaum, it is capabilities that provide the oppor- the flourishing of some of these capabilities.
tunity to choose. This is so because of the great importance In ordinary English usage, “praxis” is usually translated as
she attaches to practical reason. Hence, she chooses to call “practice,” a definition that dilutes considerably the meaning
her current version of the list “central human functional ca- ascribed to it by Aristotle, who used the term to designate the arts
pabilities.”9 The list itself consists of separate components, and sciences that deal with ethical and political life. In so doing,
all of which are of central importance and all of which are he carefully distinguished between theoria and


praxis. While the former refers to theories and activities con- study brings together the experiences of over 60,000 poor
cerned with the production of knowledge for its own sake, the women and men throughout the developing world.11 Each
latter refers to theories and activities that create knowl-edge volume offers overlapping, interrelated recommendations
instrumental in achieving ethical and political ends (Par-tridge about how to do development better. The first volume
1987). This distinction owes much to the work of Marx and offers suggestions regarding process, the second (in which
his eleventh thesis on Feuerbach, where he appears to Cham-bers participated) a series of laudable objectives
underline the importance of philosophy, the highest form of —“from unequal and troubled gender relations to equity
theory, to guide practice (Warry 1992). Theory can only in- and har-mony”—and the third practical objectives, which
form practice and, since it is often an exclusive discourse, is include promotion of economic policies that favor the poor;
often irrelevant for strategic purposes or instrumental action. invest-ment in poor people’s assets and capabilities;
Praxis itself, then, is a type of knowledge of the world, addressing gen-der inequity and the vulnerability of
partly objective and partly subjective: it consists of negotia- children; and the pro-tection of the rights of the poor
tion between objective knowledge of the world, operative in a (Narayan and Petesch 2002:487-493).
given time and place, and subjective experience of the world
found in ongoing human action. From this process emerge Development Anthropology as Moral
implicit patterns that underlie human existence (Baba 2000). Narrative
But it is also a way of knowing which embodies ethical and
political theory and practice as processes of social life. As a Central to development anthropology is the belief that
result, the practitioner of praxis balances theory with activ-ity the enlightened have a positive contribution to make to the
and lives life making ethical and political decisions that realization of responsible human well-being. But there is a
matter, a process that calls for continuous adjustment (Par- double irony here. On the one hand, development anthro-
tridge 1987). Since praxis is concerned with change, it is ori- pologists find themselves in the same predicament as those
ented more toward the present and prediction of the future, they study and represent—how to make their voices heard
rather than to the interpretation of previous events. It also and how to make society respond. On the other, while an-
involves creating the conditions for people to act on their own thropological knowledge may improve understanding, this
behalf. Integral to such a theory of practice is an ethics of invariably implies “our” understanding of “them,” and,
action, based on commitment to socially responsible work and hence, the possibility for greater control on our part and
professional integrity, as well as a willingness to accept a their even-tual integration into a type of society on terms
moral responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions. over which local people have little or no control.
As an example of this approach—“values-oriented ac-tion in Given this impasse, development anthropology can jus-
anthropology”—Baba (2000) cites Sol Tax’s Fox Project, which tify itself and its contribution to development in both practi-
embedded an ethical imperative similar to that of praxis theory cal and moral terms, but only by moving beyond well-
and was inspired by the work of John Dewey. According to meaning liberal platitudes, specifying what these values are,
Dewey, all inquiry was communal and should return something of and how development can contribute to their realization.
value to the community, something good in a fundamental sense, Many of these values have been presented within the context
where the good was defined as “that which enables the of human rights and basic needs discourses, values to which
actualization of human potential, especially personal growth and many anthro-pologists working in development already
development” (ibid.:33). While some commentators, particularly subscribe, implic-itly or explicitly. But there is a need to move
Bennett (1996:S34-S39), strongly question the influence of beyond stating and believing the obvious.
Dewey, as well as some of the claims made by Tax, others such as Who, for example, will argue against Article 25 of the
Foley (1999), are more sympa-thetic, allowing that Tax may well UN Declaration of Human Rights, which states that
have thought of himself as a philosophical pragmatist. While “every-one has the right to a standard of living adequate for
those most directly in-volved in the Fox Project claimed that Tax the health and well-being of himself and his [sic] family”?
followed a “very democratic, dialogic pragmatist theory of What is needed, and this is why the work of Sen and
science,” Foley, based on interviews and fieldwork, states that the Nussbaum is important, albeit sketched very briefly here, is
action an-thropology they practiced was marked by a certain some state-ment about the quality of the lives that will
amount of social engineering. Be that as it may, this does not result from the achievement of these rights and needs.
necessarily invalidate his approach, nor the argument in favor of For both of them, development should be a liberating pro-cess
praxis. that provides people with the chance to live fuller, richer, more
What sorts of development activities could provide the meaningful, flourishing lives, with a particu-lar focus on
foundations for the flourishing of Chambers’s concept of re- certain key capabilities: practical reason, the imagination,
sponsible well-being and the more salient of Nussbaum’s ca- empathy, community, justice, friendship, and the two
pabilities? One of anthropology’s explicit agendas is to pro- freedoms—autonomy and liberty. For Chambers, this human
vide a voice for those who are not heard, those who are usu- flourishing is embedded in the concept of respon-sible well-
ally ignored—the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, being which, among other things, underlines the idea of
those who are discriminated against. A recent World Bank stewardship and our obligations to this and future

VOL. 61, NO. 4, WINTER 2002 309

generations, whether as witnesses of the human condition development success on the other, how does one demonstrate that the
or practitioners of a form of caring vigilance, which former was in some way responsible for the latter? A case in point is the
Agroforestry Outreach Project in Haiti (Murray 1997). Was the project
implies a commitment—not only to “speak truth to power,” successful because of the quality of the anthropological knowledge, or
but also a willingness to become involved, to take a stand, because the anthropologists knew Haiti well, understood its political and
and to side with the victim. institutional culture, and were seriously committed to effecting change?
By framing the values of development in moral terms,
rather than say economic terms (the market) or political terms The reference is to the doctor in Camus’s The Plague (Camus
1960:230). The full citation can be found in Shue (1980:173-174).
(democracy), these writers not only escape from the tyranny
of ideology, academic discipline, and political fashion; they 6
Perhaps not coincidentally, Nolan (2002:174-179) also highlights
also elevate the general tone of development discourse, for Chambers’ contribution in his final chapter, entitled “A New
what they are proposing is a vision of the “good society.” I Develop-ment Paradigm.”
would like to suggest that this is where development anthro- 7
pologists can perhaps make their most effective contribution: According to Chambers (1997b:1747), one of the leaders in the field:
“It [PRA] seeks to enable local and marginalized people to share, enhance
to the meaning of development. There are examples at hand. and analyze their knowledge of life and conditions, and to plan, act,
In his Malinowski Award Lecture, Thayer Scudder (1999) monitor, and evaluate.” A recently edited volume, appropriately entitled
characterized himself as an “optimistic pessimist,” one who, Participation: The New Tyranny?, offers a reasoned and rea-sonable
in spite of all the growing evidence of impending social and critique of his work (Cooke and Kothari 2001).
environmental crises, remained hopeful that we, as a spe-cies, 8
In a footnote, Chambers (1997b:1752) justifies the inclusion of “fun”
still have the potential to create a much better world. In a among such a collection of “serious and moral” words on the grounds that
different, but similarly optimistic vein, Arturo Escobar (1997) it is the wellspring of creativity, laughter, and the breakdown of barriers:
has argued that anthropology must recon-ceptualize its “That this is out of reach for so many is an outrage.”
engagement with development and focus on the differ-ences 9
and alternatives that may pose important challenges to This list is very much of a work in progress and in a long
footnote Nussbaum (2000:78-80) lists a series of articles stretching
conventional models and their underlying values. back to 1988. The complete list is composed of the following
As Corbridge (1994) has forcefully and eloquently ar-gued, capabilities: life; bodily health; bodily integrity; senses, imagination,
to change the world not only calls for an account of the world, but and thought; emotions; practical reason; affiliation; other species;
also a theory about how this world might change for the better. I play; and control over one’s environment.
would argue that this theory should be based on some agreement 10
In his critique of Nussbaum, Qizilbash (1996 and 1998)
about the meaning of development. Within the academy, we proposes replacing these capabilities with a list of his own which
might be better to view development anthro-pology as the draws on the work of James Griffin (1991). This list of what he terms
discipline’s moral rather than its evil twin. Within development, prudential values—“the sorts of things that make any
anthropologists have chosen, for pro-fessional, personal, and characteristically hu-man life go better”—overlaps considerably with
Nussbaum’s lat-est version of her list. The major difference, at least
perhaps emotional reasons, to be more concerned with the rural
to a nonphilosopher, is the addition of “accomplishment” as such a
and the indigenous and more gener-ally with the marginalized. value: to view an achievement as an accomplishment is to view it as
But the present effects and future implications of globalization life-fulfilling, as something which gives life meaning. Commenting
(however much contested), surely demonstrate once and for all on the work of Sen and Nussbaum, Watts (2000:141) suggests that
the limitations of what is now ambiguously termed localization. under-lying their approach is a vision of society in which
development occurs through dialogue, negotiation, and irreducible
Certain human needs and human rights can be taken as universal, rights, in his opinion a myopic vision when “development’s primary
the basis for a moral narrative in this new millennium of reality remains struggle, strife and conflict.”
This number is not a misprint. The first volume, Can Anyone Hear
Notes Us?, records and analyzes the voices of 40,000 poor women and men
from 50 countries included in the bank’s participatory poverty assess-
1 ments conducted in the 1990s (Narayan et al. 2000a). The second vol-
Parts of this section draw on Gow (1996). ume, Crying Out for Change, draws material from a new comparative 23-
2 country study and is dedicated to the more than 20,000 poor women, men,
The same holds for methodology. In an article dealing with the “new youth, and children who took the time to shares their lives with the
ecological anthropology,” Kottak (1999) provides an impressive list of authors (Narayan et al. 2000b). The final volume, From Many Lands,
high-tech methods now available in this field, including satellite imag-ery, presents 14 country case studies (Narayan and Petesch 2002).
geographic information systems, and macroscope software.

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