The ‘Angry’ Development Worker/ Conflict Management Professional   1 comment

I am taking time out from eating my lunch (peanut sauce with bits of chicken over rice) and from studying (how to negate commands in Pula Fuuta) to type this post. I hope it makes sense to those who know me, and for those who can relate to the context.

E misaal (for example in Pulaar’s Pula Fuuta dialect), you read an article or a blog post from someone within the development and/or peacebuilding field. If you’re like me, you first read their professional summary to make sure they are reputable enough to take what they are saying to heart in addition to confirm that reading their piece is worthwhile. You see that the author may have a summer abroad in a distant country during their undergrad, their parents were missionaries, or they read White Man’s Burden and wanted to save African babies – what ever the case is, they have (at least) some background. It may be the case that the author admits to having jack for a background and may wish they had more of a background in the field prior to devoting their careers toward. Due to boredom or the like, you read their article. It may be the case that you agree with some or most of what she/he has stated in their piece; this is great, as one cannot never fully agree with everything they read. However, it isn’t the content that people read, per se, that makes me upset – it is the authors themselves and how/why the venue allowed them to post/publish their work.

At the moment, my readers are asking themselves, “Well, who the heck are you, Travis, and what gives you the right more so over other authors to post/publish over others?” Well, I never said I have more of a right, but I feel I have more of a background to be taken seriously and to publish my opinions and material at more and better venues then some of our fellow colleagues. One can read my bio in the ‘About Me’ section of my blog. Besides being the ‘black sheep’ or kalabante (rascal/scoundrel/one who disturbs in Pula Fuuta) during my two years in graduate school, I provided alternate opinions and views to approaching both peacebuilding and international development to my classmates. After my last year of classes, I flew to Senegal to conduct field research in West Africa’s longest ongoing conflict – in the region of Casamance – and learn another dialect of Pulaar for 6 months. This, in my personal and professional, gives me the background and basis to post on my blog and be published.

I get upset when people have opinions, more so professional ones, and are allowed to vocalize their opinions when they have no background to be able to even attempt to step upon their soap-box. Regardless of your Master’s degree at some ivory tower university in DC or Boston-area, or your time volunteering for an NGO in Kenya for a summer, if you have little to no international experience but are posting/publishing works on international-related topics – think before you type another character. If you are a professional or practitioner within the international realm and you reading articles or blogs from authors who also fit into the ‘no experience’ category, please consider either reading something else or take what those authors are saying with a grain of salt.

I am not truly upset or angry, although I may come off as royally livid via this blog and in person with my colleagues but I feel I have a right to be. Too many people are being taken seriously as ‘experts’ but in reality their opinion accounts for less than a Senegalese franc is worth. If we, as trained (graduate-level) professional peacebuilders and international development practitioners, wish to progress our fields, we must read up and educate ourselves of what the likes of Lederach, Easterly, Sachs, Zartman, etc. have said in the past while taking the current trends and situations with our fields for the chance and ability to evolve the field/s. To promote alternations, change, and evolution within said fields, one cannot afford to listen to a ‘professional’ whose soapbox was bought from Toy-R-US ; we need to take strong consideration what is said from solid professional whose soapbox was made from wood scraps in Niger, used straighten nails from Sri Lanka to nail the box together, and hand-painted ‘soapbox’ lettering with paint from Turkey in the Berber language. In other words, someone with the field credentials and degree/s to give a worthwhile opinion.


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Posted June 19, 2012 by Travis Warrington in Development

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One response to The ‘Angry’ Development Worker/ Conflict Management Professional

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  1. I had heard a lot of buzz created from this post. Before I comment on it, I think we should examine what a blog actually is. This space is not ours for our own opinions. I encourage people who feel passionate to start there own personal blogs. Regardless of opinions we need more people willing to share.

    As for the post, I found this brutally honest at times I must admit. While I agree that those with little field experience or time outside of the western world should not hold water in terms of scholarly sources, I don’t think being angry at them’this will result in the usage of regarded academic sources or even people admitting they aren’t experts. Society, particularly the privileged western one, constantly does this. I’m not sure its related to White Mans Burden, with a little manifest destiny mixed in, but it could very well be.

    I don’t mean to sound abrasive but the whole idea of White Mans Burden is a real issue for many westerners. No one likes or enjoys being labeled a Racist or have guilt over screwing over the world, but we all fit these descriptions to some extent, even those of us who aren’t white. I believe this post may upset those who are in denial about their motivations to enter this field. Personally, I’ve met many the ex-pat, development and aid worker who could never had gotten as far if they had worked a 9-5 in the west their whole lives. So yes, being in this field for some is very selfish and it makes me angry as well. The African babies grow up to be African men an women and the White Savior complex is quite damaging, especially with regards to Peace Building.

    People don’t like to hear the truth, and some of your version of it rings true here. However, it is always necessary to have tact with the delivery so as not to come off with a tone that would invoke negativity. I’m sure you are doing just that.

    I encourage you to share your opinion and disregard non -constructive comments. I would be more concerned what someone from the Global South would think of this post, as they are the major stakeholders in my opinion. And remember you represent yourself and not your institution. This blog is your space and not property of this Institution.

    Again, I encourage these people to write reactions on their own blogs and critically asses their motivations for being bright eyed and bushy tailed when it comes to those in this field. Reality is that the world is messed up and the Global North has had the most responsibility in this.

    Helping those in this industry reassess themselves, these so called experts, is right on point. I would urge all western people to see things from the perspective of a person from the Global South because they are the real experts in development/conflict and not us.

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