Technical Knowledge and Development: Observing Aid Projects and Processes

Technical Knowledge and Development: Observing Aid Projects and Processes

Technical Knowledge and Development: Observing Aid Projects and Processes

Technical Knowledge and Development: Observing Aid Projects and Processes

Synopsis

Development and aid projects often fail to improve technological capacity. Their reform has been a widely acknowledged challenge for three decades. This book demonstrates theoretically and empirically how aid practitioners shape the organizational, social and inter-cultural dynamics of development projects in industry.

Excerpt

The institutional (aid politics) and organizational (donor inertia) obstacles to producing anthropology of development efforts are immense. I could use the material resources and, more importantly, the motivation from 6 years as an engineering consultant mostly in energy projects funded by the us Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank. Pierre Achard, Allan Hoben, Mick Howes and Michael Schönhuth encouraged me to try. Gérard Althabe and Monique Selim have taught me ethnography and made this research viable. Christine Jones translated and improved my writing. I would also not have been able to get this far without the generous advice of Raymond Apthorpe, Michael J. Chadwick, Jean-Pierre Chauveau, Kim Forss, Georgia Kaufmann, Arturo Lara Rivero, Anne LeNaelou, Fabrizio Sabelli and Michel Tibon-Cornillot. Finally, I owe the opportunity to produce this text to those who appear anonymously in these pages and I am deeply grateful for their trust.

Some management fads spreading in business schools actually damage commercial companies and are later uncritically applied to development efforts. Knowledge management could be a new one. in a global market where most power rests in the control over science and technology, 'managing' technical knowledge can be a versatile smokescreen. If I have contributed to filling rhetoric with ethnographic evidence of knowledge exchanges, reading this will be worth your time. Technology can enhance a developee's autonomy, affirm a developer's identity and even alter the forms that globalization takes. Little of this occurs because most developer-developee efforts disfigure their skills instead of using them for the interests of both. When developers and developees mutually admit this, they radically change their relationship.

Often, engineers discover that their skills are impregnated with social and political ambitions, and then they become social scientists to undo what their education made them believe and want. I am quite typical in that respect. in the North-South context, ethnologists are much better equipped for that discovery because their discipline came about within it. They do not need years of practice to face their assumptions about progress and social history. However, the ethnologists' problem of reflexivity is not made smaller because participant observation only produces insight into social reality when it is a

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