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SP03 - Radical alternatives or ambivalent engagements? Development understandings from the Global South

Convened by Alba Castellsagué (Universitat de Girona (UdG), Spain) and Sally Matthews (Rhodes University, South Africa)

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Post-development and other critical development thinkers call for radical alternatives to development, rooted in marginalised concepts and practices attributed to people in the Global South. For example, they refer to concepts like Buen Vivir, which points to a "culture of life" in particular regions of South America; Ubuntu, an African concept referring to human connectedness and mutuality; and the Indian concept of Swaraj which appeals to self-governance or sovereignty. The aforesaid notions are associated with social and environmental sustainability as opposed to the logic of progress and economic growth embedded within the hegemonic development paradigms. It is suggested not only that such concepts have the potential to be transformative, but also that they are being advanced as alternatives to development in the Global South.

However, a gap seems to exist between the ideals presented by such alternatives and the reality of marginalised communities in the Global South, who struggle with poverty, precarity, and deprivation of human rights. Fieldwork with Global South communities reveals that such communities typically negotiate the ideas and practices associated with development in complex ways rather than either embracing or rejecting development.

This panel aims to capture how development and the proposed alternatives are being understood and negotiated on the ground, a process with plenty of contradictions and controversy. We invite those who are conducting fieldwork research among such communities to share the ways in which they are engaging with the broader idea of development and with proposed alternatives to development.

We invite contributors to reflect on:

  • the ambivalent interactions of marginalised communities with development ideas and practices/projects. 
  • the implications of such engagements for broader struggles for alternatives.
  • the methodological and ethical questions that arise when doing fieldwork research in relation to the idea of radical alternatives to development.