Culture Matters…Obviously   Leave a comment

William Easterly recently posted on AidWatch regarding the “effects of culture on development outcomes” by means of his colleague Raquel Fernandez’s recent paper. I usually roll my eyes at this sort of subject matter, but it was good that the likes of Easterly posted something about it…which prompted me to write this post to start off my Culture section of my site.

The effects of a society’s culture should be addressed, assessed, and/or at least be of concern when performing developmental work. This is just common sense to me. However, throughout the content of my courses this year, I get the feeling that culture as an entity is put on the back-burner when development (and even conflict) work is discussed. Why is this so? In my school there is only one specific course that deals with culture and development, and I find that alarming. Other courses devote a session on culture (and maybe gender), but do not discuss how culture can act as a vehicle or a hindrance toward societal progression throughout the course.

I skimmed the abstract and introduction of Fernandex’s piece so pardon me if I missed something here. However, shouldn’t culture be the determining factor in how one even begins the process of implementing development/aid projects? Easterly’s post goes on to show random charts related to ‘trust’ and female work forces in various countries. Again, maybe I missed something here but the charts gave little assistance to the subject at hand.

Easterly concludes by stating “[r]esearching culture used to be taboo in economics; thank goodness that has changed.” I agree that economics has evolved from not agreeing with anthropology to more recently appreciating the field because “[culture] factors matter more in development than we used to think.” Who is the ‘we’ he is referring to? Development practitioners and experts? Is he serious? When I first was introduced to anthropology during my undergrad, I understood fully that culture as an entity and a field of study is embedded in EVERY aspect of our lives and work. Why is this just coming to light?

I’ll write more on this subject later.

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Posted January 29, 2011 by Travis Warrington in Development

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