CCD paper published!

Two years after we first submitted it our paper on conceptualising corporate community development is now available. The hashtag #slowacademia seems particularly appropriate here as our ideas have moved on during the time it took to be reviewed, revised and reviewed again. But it is available now, and if you have an interest in the role of the private sector in community development please have a read (email me for an open access copy if you don’t have access via the link).

Afterlives of Development

My second journal article has now been published in a special edition of PoLAR (Political and legal Anthropology Review). The special edition focuses on the afterlives of development. The title and abstract for my paper are below – please contact me if you would like to read a full version of the paper.

Networks for Development: Volunteer Tourism, Information and Communications Technology, and the Paradoxes of Alternative Development

The projecthonduras network identifies itself as “an alternative concept for the development of Honduras using information and communications technology (ICT) to identify, mobilize and coordinate all the available human capital in Honduras and around the world.” These ambitious goals reflect a wider commitment to non-traditional, non-state-directed alternative development that calls on a network of volunteers, encouraging them to exercise their knowledge and compassion to aid in the development of Honduras. This article analyzes the promotion of volunteerism within the projecthonduras network, and the use of internet-enabled networking to multiply the impact of volunteers in development. This is a contested assemblage in which the promises of technological opportunities and people-led development are confronted by critiques of neo-colonialism and modernization in the contemporary neoliberal context. The article ethnographically documents how, despite the promises of networking and volunteerism and the humanitarian foundations of the network, strong traces of modernist principles remain within projecthonduras. It casts light on the concept of networks for development, and illuminates a central paradox of the projecthonduras model for development: despite its goal to be an alternative model, its rhetoric and practices build on developmentalist legacies and contributes to the neo-liberalization of Honduras.

The Fieldwork Book!

fieldwork bookOver the past two years I have been working with Regina Scheyvens on updating the book Development Fieldwork: A Practical Guide, first as a research assistant (digging up new references and interesting stories, which was a lot of fun), then as a chapter author. I have contributed to three chapters in the revised edition, including a new chapter on researching using archives, texts and virtual data (with Gerard Prinsen), a revision of the chapter on entering the field, and the revision of the introduction. The original version of the book was a huge help for me when planning my Master’s and PhD fieldwork, and (with some bias) I would highly recommend this new version to anyone planning to undertake development-related or overseas fieldwork.

The book has now been published, and can be purchased from Sage or your usual online retailer.

From the publisher:

This book provides an invaluable guide to undertaking development fieldwork in both the developing world and in western contexts. It takes you through all the key stages in development research and covers:

  • Research design and the roles of quantitative and qualitative methods.
  • Research using archival, textual and virtual data, along with using the internet ethically.
  • Practical as well as personal issues, including funding, permissions, motivation and attitude.
  • Culture shock, ethical considerations and working with marginalized, vulnerable or privileged groups, from indigenous peoples through to elites and corporations.
  • How to write up your findings.

Sensitive, engaging and accessible in tone, the text is rich in learning features; from boxed examples to bullet-pointed summaries and questions for reflection. Development Fieldwork is the perfect companion for students engaged in research across development studies, geography, social anthropology or public policy.


This is shaping up to be a good year. My first publications will be available soon (two journal articles and three chapters in the Development Fieldwork book), I’m teaching the same courses as last year (good because I enjoy these courses, and because they won’t need much updating) and it is looking like I’ll get some fieldwork time in PNG and Fiji mid-year. I also have a big birthday coming up later in the year, which is a little scary but has motivated me to look after myself again and to get back to the gym… and I’m loving it. Here’s hoping the positivity continues!

I do what I do, and write what I write

I do what I do, and write what I write, without calculating what is worth what and so on. Fortunately, I am not a banker or an accountant. I feel that there is a time when a political statement needs to be made and I make it.
Arundhati Roy

I recently came across this quote from Arundhati Roy, and I like it. It sums up well the way I feel about writing, and about academia. While academic writing has a (often well-earned) reputation for being dry and dull, it doesn’t always have to be that way.

As one of my PhD supervisors frequently reminded me, academics should be “the critic and conscience of society”

It seems a good aim.

Rolling out the welcome mat

Writing, reading, thinking about Development, Politics & Culture in NZ, Latin America and the world… this has been on my Twitter profile for years, and it pretty much sums up what you might expect to find here.

This website has been nearly a year in the making… thinking, planning, starting, re-starting, writing, tinkering, re-starting… but here it is. Not yet complete in the way I would like, but then I guess that is the nature of websites and blogs.  From a quick click around the bare bones of the site so far you will find my cv details, highlighting my past and present achievements. But there is also this rather empty space, the blog, and a sparsely populated page for publications. This for me is the the core of the site, the reason I have developed it. Here I plan to highlight my writing, both formal and published (the publications page) and informal and developing (the blog). I will be writing about the things that I am thinking and reading about, as well as responding to  current events and debates.

So welcome. Have a look around. And please come back, there’s lots more to come.

An exploration of the role of short term medical missions in health care provision in Honduras

Master’s Thesis Abstract

Short term medical missions, or medical brigades are teams of expatriate health professionals and lay people, who travel to Latin America and other parts of the world for a week or two to provide health care to the poor. While the number and popularity of these teams appears to be increasing, to date there has been little literature or critical research addressing their role. This thesis addresses the role of Short Term Medical Missions (STMMs), who they are, what they do and how they fit into health service provision in developing nations. In particular it outlines the services provided by STMMs, including clinical services, resource provision and preventative services, it discusses the motivation for using STMMs as service providers and it also begins to explore the impact they have on the populations and on local health care services in the areas they operate. This is done within the context of Honduras, a nation that has seen an influx of these teams in recent years, particularly since Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Honduras faces many challenges in health and health care and STMMs have been seen by some as a means of “filling gaps”. This study questions whether STMMs are indeed actually filling real gaps, and if they are, whether they most appropriate means of doing so, as there are many limitations to the ability of short term, outside volunteers to provide quality services. While not directly measuring the impact of STMMs on the health status of the population, this study discusses the actual and potential impact of STMMs on local health services, and argues that there are potential long-term consequences to their use. These consequences include an increasing dependency on outside assistance that may be detrimental to the long-term development of National health services.

Full Thesis (PDF)

An alternative model for development? : promise and politics in the projecthonduras network

PhD Thesis Abstract

Projecthonduras is an online network of mostly voluntary organisations working in development in Honduras. It aims to be practical, positive and apolitical, and to create an ‘alternative model‘ for development based on mobilising people using information and communication technology (ICT). In the context of on-going debates regarding the problems with conventional development aid and the search for new approaches, the projecthonduras rhetoric appears to hold much promise. Indeed its early inception and more than a decade of operation make it stand out in a world of failed Internet start-ups, and its positive and constructive approach finds resonance with recent, more hopeful post-development literature. However after three years of research this thesis outlines a much more complex picture of projecthonduras. This is one with very quiet online forums but a growing political voice, particularly following the 2009 coup d‘état in Honduras. The thesis addresses this apparent paradox, unpacking the structure and discourse of projecthonduras, and identifying the underlying assumptions and understandings that underpin both the ‘alternative’ development rhetoric and the political activity. Researched and written as an ethnography, this thesis positions projecthonduras within the development studies literature and within the particular context of contemporary Honduras. Using on and offline interviews and participant observation, and making extensive use of Internet-based data, this study shows that the projecthonduras development model is based on a paternalistic and modernising model of development, one that is connected to a liberal, capitalist politics. The emergence of political themes in this research is reflective of the messy realities of development intervention, and of geo-political, economic and cultural power and privilege within Honduras. However as indicated by the title of this thesis, the concept of politics stands alongside that of promise, the potential held by the idea of ICT and social networking. This intersection of promise and politics highlights the contours of the structural and discursive boundaries in which projecthonduras operates, and emphasises the complexity inherent in the search for development alternatives.

Full Thesis (PDF)

note taking

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