Development and the search for connection

Fechter, Anne-Meike (2019) Development and the search for connection. Third World Quarterly, 40 (10). pp. 1816-1831. ISSN 0143-6597

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The stated purpose of development is often characterised by the motivation to ‘help’ – that is, to intervene in the lives of others in supportive ways. This paper argues that this perspective has obscured how development activities are also animated by its twin desire to ‘connect’. While this holds significance for development more broadly, it becomes particularly evident in a mode of assistance that has gained prominence more recently. These are privately funded, small-scale projects led by individual founders, here described as ‘citizen aid’. Based on ethnographic research among citizen aid initiatives in Cambodia, the paper argues that the relevance of ‘connecting’ has been insufficiently recognised so far. It explores different aspects of what participants mean by ‘making a connection’, including face-to-face contact, direct experience of aid activities, and their tangible efficacy. It also finds that establishing interpersonal relationships across national, ethnic and cultural differences, while potentially challenging, is a key motivation for those involved. Finally, the paper argues that acknowledging the desire to connect questions notions of the ‘distant stranger’ as the archetypical humanitarian object, highlighting the wish for familiarity and closeness as potentially just as important for motivating and directing assistance to others.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Aid, Development, Cambodia, Connection
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Depositing User: Anne-Meike Fechter
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2019 15:25
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2021 02:00

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Alternative Actors in Development? Understanding the Role of 'Do-It-Yourself Aid'G1103LEVERHULME TRUSTRF-2013-535