Chapter 29: Anthropology and Development: The Uneasy Relationship
David Lewis The relationship between anthropology and development has long been one fraught with difficulty, ever since Bronislaw Malinowski advocated a role for anthropologists as policy advisers to African colonial administrators and Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard urged them instead to do precisely the opposite and distance themselves from the tainted worlds of policy and ‘applied’ involvement (Grillo 2002). This chapter briefly introduces the concept of development and summarises the history of the relationship between development and anthropologists. Along the way, it considers three main positions which anthropologists have taken and may still take in relation to development. The first, that of antagonistic observer, is one characterised by critical distance and a basic hostility towards both the ideas of development and the motives of those who seek to promote it. The second is one of reluctant participation where institutional financial pressures and livelihood opportunities have led some anthropologists, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to offer their professional services to policy makers and development organisations. The third is the long-standing tradition in which anthropologists have attempted to combine their community or agency-level interactions with people at the level of research with involvement with or on behalf of marginalised or poor people in the developing world. Since the emergence of the term in its current usage after the Second World War, the concept of development went on to become one of the dominant ideas of the twentieth century, embodying a set of aspirations and techniques aimed at bringing about positive change or progress in...
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