Welcome to Development Studies Association
The Development Studies Association is the UK's learned society and professional body for academic teaching and research, policy and practice in the field of international development.
While the annual conference is a principal focus for the association, the DSA is active throughout the year through its many Study Groups. All those involved in development whether as teachers, researchers, consultants or practitioners, are welcome to join both the Study Groups and the DSA itself.
For all the DSA members' news visit our new set of News pages.
Thought for the Month
On the 8th of this month, we celebrate International Women’s Day, a tradition now well-established since 1909. From Dhaka to Dakar, from Quito to Port-Louis, from Brussels to Suva, many events will be organised to promote gender equality and diversity in the workplace, anti-sexism, and inclusive and safe spaces for all with the hashtag #EachForEqual. Though this 8th March falls on a Sunday, it takes place in a specific context in UK universities. Following the 8 days of strike in late 2019, members of the University College Union (UCU) are currently taking further industrial action against employers to defend pensions, pay and equality. The week before the strike, I was invited by colleagues from another school to discuss with our students and explain to them the reasons for the strike. In my presentation, I argued for the necessity to build radical solidarities because students’ experience of academia does not stand in isolation from ours: they constitute two facets of the same coin. And because of this very reason, on the picket line, we stand, not as teachers and students, but as comrades. Indeed, all this reminds us of the many ways in which the personal and the political remain inextricably intertwined.
On this occasion, I would like to acknowledge the many generations of feminist giants who blazed the trail and, on whose shoulders, many others and I stand today. In the field of development studies in particular, feminist scholars have contributed to problematising dualisms such as ‘market/household’, ‘private/public’, ‘production/reproduction’, among others. Feminist political economists such as Ann Jennings (1999) have shown that most of these dichotomies are based on a ‘dualistic ontology’ in Western philosophy, which from the Ancient Greeks to the Cartesian ‘invention of modernism’, often separates social phenomena into distinct and mutually exclusive categories. Feminist social scientists have therefore pushed for bridging the gap between these often artificial dichotomies and for the acknowledgement of the difference that time and space make in the production of economies and societies. Following Spivak’s 1988 Can the Subaltern Speak? and Mohanty’s seminal 1984 text Under Western Eyes, feminist, critical race theory and post and de-colonial scholars have pointed out the centrality of situatedness and the conjugated dynamics of gender, class, race, sexuality and ability which together shape and are shaped by development outcomes. In the same vein, feminist scholars such as Everjoice Win (2004) have also called out the homogenisation of ‘Third World women’, often portrayed in the development industry as “Very Poor, Powerless or Pregnant”, to ask whether this tells their full and complex story, and whether these are the only women whom development organisations should be concerned about.
Considering the huge contributions of feminist, critical race theory and decolonial scholars, what then are my hopes as a scholar in the early stages of my career lecturing in African Studies and International Development in the UK, and looking forward to setting-up a new DSA study group on Decolonising Development Studies? I hope we can all together recognise the importance of challenging epistemic and ontological privileges in knowledge production especially in the field of development studies. Doing development and researching development in this globally intimate and multicultural world is replete with political and ethical considerations. As aptly noted by Obioma Nnaemeka in her article on Nego-feminism (2004: 362), the underlying questions are that: “of provenance (where is the theory coming from?); the question of subjectivity (who authorizes?); the question of positionality (which specific locations and standing [social, political, and intellectual] does it legitimize?)”. This indeed requires further self-reflexivity about power and positionality, as well as a commitment not to (re)produce epistemic violence. Furthermore, realising this feminist project requires that we start actively embracing other ways of knowing and relating which value all societies on their own terms, as ‘the meeting point of giving and receiving’ (Senghor 1964:34) The question indeed, is no longer whether the Subaltern can speak, or whether those on strike should be or not, but to listen when they do.
Happy International Women’s Day! A luta continua!
All my best wishes,
Ps: if you are interested in joining the Decolonising Development Study Group, please send me an email: rdieng(at)ed.ac.uk copying in membershipadmin(at)devstud.org.uk
DSA Council member
University of Edinburgh