DSA2018: Global inequalities
University of Manchester, 27-29th June
Early career plenary speaker panel on “global inequalities”
The conference included an early career researcher plenary speaker session (those within 5 years of finishing their PhD). The session aimed to showcase emerging talent and showcase their thoughts on how research agendas in specific fields of development theory and practice can be moved forward. The early career researchers spoke to how their research relates to, and pushes forward, the conference theme of “Global Inequalities”.
A full concept note for the conference theme is available here. Briefly, focusing on global inequalities challenges the traditional geographies of development, and demands investigation of the power relations that generate wealth and poverty within and between countries and regions. It also emphasises the many dimensions of inequality, including gender, class, climate, race and ethnicity, region, nationality, citizenship status, age, (dis)ability, sexuality, and religion and the ways these reinforce or counteract each other.
Four speakers were selected who formed one plenary panel:
Oscar Garza - Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP), México
Sen’s Capability Approach and the persistence of injustice: Reconceptualising injustice
Inequalities within and across countries are extensive and reflect prevalent local and global injustices. While Sen’s capability approach has been highly influential in global debates concerning the conceptualization of such injustices such as poverty and inequality, one could argue that it has been less successful in translating its rich conceptual apparatus into practical action capable of promoting a more equitable development. Indeed, despite (or independently of) its theoretical contributions, the literature on the capability approach has failed to provide practical guidance to orient policy interventions to lessen the social ailments of poverty and inequality within and across the globe. My research aims at filling this gap. At the theoretical level, I argue that the capability approach remains insufficient to promote effective injustice-reducing interventions due to the failure of capability-enhancing policies in accounting for the social/relational reproduction of injustice. I illustrate this argument with reference to the social policy of Oportunidades (recently renamed as Prospera) in Mexico. I suggest that, in order to create a more just society, injustice-reduction policies need to go beyond the removal of capability-deprivations and address the ways in which injustice is reproduced through social interactions.
Lipika Kamra - Georgetown University, Qatar
Gender Inequalities in the Global South: Development, Democracy and New Self-Imaginaries
My talk at the plenary will focus on how gender inequalities in the Global South might be addressed through development interventions and democratic politics. I will draw on my research of the past 6 years, which examines the gendered politics of development and democracy in contemporary rural India. I found, much to my surprise, that poor women actively participate in development programmes (state-led and NGO-led) and in democratic elections in order to challenge the gender inequalities they face at home and outside. While they are aware of the limitations of these programmes, they nevertheless creatively negotiate with the state, NGOs, and elected representatives to create a new space for themselves in the rural public sphere. I argue, therefore, that material goods do not draw women to state officials, NGO workers or elected representatives, but the promise of carving a role outside the household. Women’s new desired roles in the rural public sphere might not be enough to overturn patriarchal social and familial structures. However, by linking themselves to development actors and by participating in democratic politics, poor rural women activate a new sense of their own self. This finding contributes to knowledge on gender inequalities in the Global South and how those might be tackled. Drawing on recent work which argues that ‘development’ might be strongly desired by marginalized groups, I shall make a case for focusing on processes of self-making in our scholarship and responses to global inequalities challenges.
Jackie Kauli - Queensland University of Technology
Narratives of Change: Using creative and arts-based processes to rethink participation and inclusion in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a country in the South Pacific, endowed with rich cultural diversity and wealth. This wealth, however, has not translated into government priorities that alleviate poverty and social inequalities. For one thing, development projects too often focus on individual change. This premise ignores the social and cultural complexities individuals grapple with and fails to take into consideration the diversity of the place and social influences that mediate the lives of the people. Some of these complexities include customs, power, poverty, absence of vigilant and stronger law enforcement agencies, gender inequalities and violence towards women. My PhD studies were a culmination of over 10 years of research and practice in the field of drama and theatre and its use in mediating power and agency, at community, NGO and government levels. My focus has been on the politics of participation, in particular using arts-based processes to develop accountable practices of engagement that improve aspects of social life. Working with community partners as co-researchers, the projects use creative processes and creative outputs such as drama, theatre, films, digital stories and photo exhibitions to create and activate platforms for conversations to address social issues. Through these creative processes community based organisations have been capturing their narratives of change, challenging dominant representations and advocating for shifting development policies. This paper will highlight best practice strategies from my past research (HIV community theatre) and current research (on sorcery and gender related violence) around the use of arts-based research and processes that have contributed to collective social movements..
Julia Schöneberg - University of Kassel
Entanglements of Positionality: Reflections on development research practice
I was enthusiastic to embark on my PhD field research and ready to produce knowledge about a country I had never been to before and whose language I did not speak. Thankfully, doubts about my role and the legitimacy of the questions I undertook were cast very early. In one of the PhD introductory lectures, a room full of colleagues from various countries of the Global South, the lecturer asked me, the only German in the room – and for that matter – the only person not to research in her home country, why a white, privileged, Western European girl like me should be able to contribute meaningfully to knowledge production in and about Haiti. I did not have a response to that question then, but it prompted intense reflections on the webs of relationships and entanglements of positionality, on questions of knowledge, knowledge (co-)production and the authority of different knowledges especially in a context dominated by funding guidelines and financial imbalances. In my talk I will speak about the difficulties one faces while attempting to contribute meaningfully, I will reflect about inherent, post-colonial power structures and the difficulty to overcome them and I am asking: who speaks, how, on what terms and to whom, and, most importantly: who listens?
Alice Evans (Chair) - King's College London
This panel was sponsored by the Development Studies Association.