Culture and Development: Contemporary Debates and Practices

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It is now well over two decades since critiques of development, informed by cultural studies and postcolonialism, have started to make their mark in teaching and research. The culture and development approach, or paradigm, as some suggest (Nederveen Pieterse, 2001), has been expounded in several books (for example, Allen, 1992; Skelton and Allen, 1999; Schech and Haggis, 2000; Radcliffe, 2006). A sign that it has become established is the fact that development studies reference books include ‘culture and development’ among the various conceptualizations of development as a process and phenomenon (Clark, 2006; Desai and Potter, 2008, 2014). The ‘and’ suggests a separateness between development viewed as a mainly economic process of change, and culture as the non-economic aspects of society or individuals that are affected by development, or actively constrain it. In the critical development literature, however, the two concepts are considered as intertwined in various ways.

What makes the culture and development approach difficult to delineate is that both concepts are impossible to pin down in a neat definition. Development is a concept with many meanings, but a useful distinction can be made between development as processes of social and economic change, and development as intention, the ‘purposeful pursuit of economic, social and political goals through planned intervention’ (Crewe and Axelby, 2013, p. 3)...
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Development and Social Change
EditorsG. Honor Fagan, Ronaldo Munck
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978 1 78643 155 4
ISBN (Print)978 1 78643 154 7
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • culture
  • development


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