The book has landed


from Press News, posted 06/07/2012 - 13:54

Actually, four books have recently arrived at NIAS, each in their own way marvellous works. Three of them have already had some mention here before, namely:

However, our fourth book – Development Professionals in Northern Thailand by Katharine McKinnon – has been somewhat overshadowed by the others, which is a pity given that it is an insightful analysis of the development ‘business’ by someone who grew up in that world. Today, Katharine McKinnon lectures on human geography at Macquarie University, Sydney, and is a former volunteer and development specialist. However, she spent much of her childhood in northern Thailand where decades of ‘development’ – promising higher incomes, better livelihoods, social justice and emancipation – have left hill communities with high rates of drug addiction and poverty, and a loss of traditional knowledge and values.

Drawing on her own experience, the author set out to consider what has gone wrong by studying professionals involved in NGO work. How, she asks, did the highlands come to be seen as needing development? And why did the presence of well-intentioned specialists leave behind so much apparent misery and hardship?

Dr McKinnon sought answers to these questions by undertaking an ethnographic study not so much of northern Thailand as of development work itself. The resulting study describes the everyday efforts and struggles of those who ‘do’ development – consultants, researchers, government officials, NGO workers and village partners. It takes a critical approach to post-development theory, argues that politics and ideology are an intrinsic part of development work, and is a ‘must-read’ for everyone involved or interested in development work, wherever that might be undertaken.

 

 


 

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