This summer I attended several academic conferences, and while I was initially extremely enthusiastic to be given the chance to put my work out for discussion, exchange with and learn from colleagues, by early autumn I am fatigued and disenchanted.
Maybe the reason for this is that several of these events where claiming to be “rethinking development”, yet by the end I fail to recognize what was essentially new in the arguments exchanged and the discussions led and what will move us forward.
The root of my discontent is that while everyone continuously debated “development” and attempted to “rethink” it, not once it was clarified what the (minimum) common denominator of the “development” to be rethought would be. Were we talking about intervention, projects, stakeholders, cooperation? Were we rethinking technical modes of intervention? Ways of studying or researching? Or were we questioning the roots of persistent inequalities, the sources of poverty and the causes of injustices (e.g. the legacy of colonialism, global capitalism and our imperial mode of living)?