Handbook of Political Anthropology
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Handbook of Political Anthropology

Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen

This Handbook engages the reader in the major debates, approaches, methodologies, and explanatory frames within political anthropology. Examining the shifting borders of a moving field of enquiry, it illustrates disciplinary paradigm shifts, the role of humans in political structures, ethnographies of the political, and global processes. Reflecting the variety of directions that surround political anthropology today, this volume will be essential reading to understanding the interactions of humans within political frames in a globalising world.
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Chapter 15: The politics of development: anthropological perspectives

Jeremy Gould and Eija Ranta


Anthropology has consistently struggled with its role as a trustee of a ‘global liberal project’. Against this backdrop, this chapter examines the relationship of political anthropology to the politics of development through the prism of a long-term process – incomplete and perhaps ultimately unsuccessful – of disassociating anthropology from the (post)colonial project of domination through improvement. The chapter scrutinizes such a potential decolonization of anthropology by problematizing the means and ends of development. It thus investigates the development interface, actor-oriented approaches and entangled social logics. A key premise of this chapter is that the imperial legacy – above all the epistemic habits established through colonial government – continues to shape the way political anthropology and anthropologists participate in the politics of development.

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