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The Ghost in the Machine: Agency in "Poststructural" Critiques of Development
Anthropological Quarterly (1997)
  • Margaret Everett, Portland State University
Anthropologists inspired by the works of Michel Foucault have described development as a discourse imposed on the Third World by powerful western institutions. In defining the power of such agencies (especially the World Bank) these authors focus not on the practices of actors or sets of actors, but rather on the ability of such institutions to shape perceptions of Third World peoples and to limit ways of thinking about the world and imagining change. While the focus on language is helpful to understanding how development agendas are "deployed" throughout the world, many critics overlook the important role of local elite groups as well as the agency of development's "target populations." The uses of, and popular responses to, "sustainable development" and other development strategies in Bogotá, Colombia, show that the development discourse is neither so monolithic nor so hegemonic as some critics suggest. Because of sustainable development's vague mandate and imprecise terminology, it has been easily manipulated and rewritten at the local level.
Publication Date
July, 1997
Citation Information
Margaret Everett. "The Ghost in the Machine: Agency in "Poststructural" Critiques of Development" Anthropological Quarterly Vol. 70 Iss. 3 (1997)
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