Beyond Development: Future Visions and Aspirations to “Good Life” in Indigenous Bangladesh

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Eva GERHARZ, Ruhr University Bochum, Faculty of Social Science, Germany
Post-development criticism and moves to deconstruct the developed/developing dichotomy have urged development sociology to abandon its raison d'être. Nowadays, we are well aware of the fact that varying often contested notions of development exist but, at the same time, we usually get quite monotone answers when we ask people about development. Modernist notions of progress, usually related to individual aspirations to consumerism and life-styles, tend to dominate individual perspectives, leaving collective visions of a better future behind. Embarking on Appadurai’s “capacity to aspire”, this paper moves beyond standardized definitions of poverty and vulnerability and highlights the significance of strengthening the capacity to exercise “voice”. As a cultural capacity, voice is embedded in social, political and economic issues and expressed in terms of collective action. Aspirations to the good life then are not only individual wants or preferences, but relate to particular systems of ideas that locate the individual in society. This paper thus seeks to conceptualize the capacity as a navigational capacity which enables individual and collective actors to change existing terms of recognition. Based on preliminary data from research in rural Bangladesh, the paper makes use of this approach to show how aspirations are taken up by an NGO, which explicitly seeks to refrain from planning methods prone with developmental power relations. Glossed in terms such as “indigenous development” or “alternative development”, the strategies applied seek to integrate local “voice” with strategies of poverty alleviation and recognition of cultural difference. By bridging the levels of individual and collective voice, this paper seeks to develop a more clear-cut understanding of the diverse concepts and visions of future and how these relate to particular societal, economic and political conditions.