Discursive development order and local informal practices
A development project in Northern Ethiopia

Discursive development order and local informal practices: A development project in Northern Ethiopia Lie, Jon Harald Sande ENG 445 K

This thesis, based on a six months study of a Norwegian NGO funded development project in northern Ethiopia, is about discourses of development as they are featured in a particular donor-recipient relationship. The intention is to get a grip with the processes involved, and not to give an assessment of the project itself. Focus is on the encounter between a western development discourse and local practical knowledge as articulated by various development agents. The thesis argues that this interface generates counter-tendencies: Local informal strategies evolve in relation and as coping-mechanisms to the formal order of development. The opposing and diverging strategies serve not only to contextualise the imposed knowledge and thus make the project viable, but also to reproduce the formal order, which they are reactions to. The double effects of these strategies are identified on two separate but interconnected levels, i.e., among local practises and in the project's formal codified order. Development agents' knowledge about the discourse they encounter enables them to be reflexive and eclectic in their practices relating to the imposed structures. The thesis also discusses actors' role regarding the ambiguity identified in general development rhetoric between policy coherence and bottom-up planning. Focusing on the formal order and planning, this is accounted for. Relations between the state and NGOs concerning policy, activities and planning are also examined, arguing that NGOs produce state-like effects.

Theoretically, this thesis draws on and combines the approaches of post-development theory and orientated analysis. Post-development theoreticians see development as a hegemonic, monolithic and homogenising discourse. They criticise development as a western construction to bring about western modernity, values and mentality. By including agency (and thus giving the analysis an ethnographic grounding) and moving attention from discourses to the situations where these meet, a more nuanced picture of development discourse appears. This becomes not only a critique of post-development theory, but also a strengthening of its relevance when studying the knowledge encounters of the development sector.