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Imagining development

4 Apr 2013

Introduction:This dissertation is concerned with investigating how development in the South(*) is being represented by New Zealand Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The term 'development' is a complex word with a long history. Development first came into the English language in the eighteenth century with a root sense of unfolding or growth (Watts, 2000). Since then it has become closely associated with Eurocentric ideas of progress, evolution and science (Bell, 1994, Watts, 2000). Although these ideas of progress, evolution and science are important this dissertation is more concerned with the idea of 'developing the South' which has more recent origins. Escobar (1995) traces its origins to the end of the Second World War when development theories and practices as both academic and governmental enterp1ises were implemented in the South. The South's need for development has been highlighted through a range of comparisons with the North, resulting in programs which concentrate on improving the standard of living for Southern people (Kingsbury, 2000). These processes of developing the South have become an important and contested part our everyday lives influencing almost every sector of society from trade and food production to environmental degradation and social justice issues (Cloke et al., 1999).Because the term development has had such a complicated history it is difficult to provide a definition. For this dissertation I draw on Hodder's idea that development is "an economic, social and political process which results in a cumulative rise in the perceived standard of living for an increased proportion of a population" (2000, p. 3). This definition implies that equity is vital in the development process as are cultural contexts which influence the 'perceived standard of living'. This illustrates what Crush calls the power of development, "to transform old worlds [and] imagine new ones" (1995, p. 2). Hodder's definition shows how encompassing the concept of development is and how it informs many society's underlying goals and priorities. Cloke at al. notes that the process of development is "diverse, complex and often contradictory" which incorporates global and local perspectives as well as tangible and intangible flows of goods, ideas and values (1999, p. 65).(*) Throughout this dissertation I use the term 'South' to refer to the traditional 'third' or 'developing' world and the term 'North' to refer to the 'first', 'developed' or western world. While acknowledging that no terms are ideal because they simplify differences and diversity between countries into binaries, the terms North and South were chosen because they have less of an inherent value bias in them (see Power, 2001).

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