Brokers and Translators in Development: a focus on civil society
Full course description
This course focuses on the changing role of civil society organizations (CSOs), particularly NGOs, in contemporary development processes. It examines the contested role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in development and democratisation by considering processes of brokerage and translation and the challenges and opportunities experienced by these organizations when dealing with state institutions, donors, corporations, other CSOs, transnational social movements and ‘communities’. Thereby, the course aims to critically examine and analyze the potent myths –e.g. they are independent, participatory, value-driven and non-profit– surrounding these organizations. This is done in two ways. First by showing that the ethnographic method is valuable in improving our understanding of NGOs and their relationships with other development actors, while also making clear that CSOs operate in dynamic, highly globalized contexts. Second, through a skills exercise, Project Design and Project Proposal Writing, whereby students have to write a project proposal for a development project.
The course is organized in a theoretical track and a practical track. In this way, the critical abilities of students are developed and sharpened, while at the same time they gain ‘hands on’ experience with the intricacies of ‘doing development’, confronting them with the dilemmas of challenging development contexts and making difficult choices.
After completion of this course, students are able to:
describe and account for the various positions in scholarly debates about civil society in development and apply and justify definitions of civil society in terms of ‘associational society’, ‘the good life’ and ‘the public sphere’;
engage in scholarly debates about civil society in development by contrasting and critically comparing several contested definitions of civil society;
describe, explain and critically assess the role played by civil society organizations as brokers and translators in processes of development including their often complicated intermediary function between states, donors and people at the local level who also have agency;
distinguish, define and critically analyse important contested concepts (e.g. state, NGOs, community based organizations, civil society organizations, social movements, brokering, strategic translations, ‘hidden transcripts’ and ‘public transcripts’);
describe and outline what a full project proposal for a development project entails;
plan and conduct the research and the writing of a full project proposal for a development project;
judge whether a project proposal for a development project is feasible and sustainable;
present and pitch a full project proposal for a development project.
The courses - GDS4000, - GDS4001, - GDS4002, - GDS4003 or - GDS4004, - GDS4005
Edwards, M. (2020). Civil Society (Fourth Edition). Cambridge: Polity Press (Only this 4th edition will do! We will read 100%);
Mosse, D., & Lewis, D. (2006). Development Brokers and Translators: the Ethnography of Aid and Agencies. Bloomﬁeld: Kumarian Press (will read for 30-40%);
PMD Pro-Starter (2017). Design, Plan, Implement, Learn, Close a Project. Creative Commons, online available at: http://pmdprostarter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/PMD_book.pdf