Why I Do Not Trust the "Realities" of Underdevelopment

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal III (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Dimitri DELLA FAILLE, Universite du Quebec en Outaouais, Canada
The process that leads us, in the field of "development”, to make decision is unfortunately too often unquestioned. But more often, decisions are based on a combination of emotions, numbers, rational argumentation and beliefs coming from figures of intellectual or moral authority. These data and opinions originate from various sources that contribute to our understanding of the social world. Here, we are calling "reality” this rather complex comprehension of social dynamics that is believed to be independent from the observer’s own experience. That is to say that "reality” is thought to be accessible to all and identical to all who have the same information. "Reality” is thought to be universal and often, its nature is taken from granted. Other ideas of what is real are said to be of less value or ridiculed.

We are building our sense of "reality” from first hand experiences, from popular culture, the media, documentaries, scientific literature, administrative data and official statistics. We are too often adamant that we have an intimate understanding of the "reality” of social dynamics in the so-called "developing world”. We also believe that our "reality” is better than others’ because it has stronger foundations. But "reality” is not a given, it is not available to us. "Realities” are multiple and competing. Our reception of "realities” depends on who we are, on how we grew up, on how we were educated and on why we are acting.

This paper questions the validity of the various "realities” of "underdevelopment”. I contend that they are shaped by ideologies, design shortcomings and severe technical limitations. In this paper, among elements used to build "realities” I will look at media representations and statistics. Ultimately, this papers attempts to force us to question the grounds on which we are making decisions.