Transnational Evaluation Systems As Relations of Ruling: Exploring Knowledge Production through the Everyday Actions of International Development Professionals
This paper is based on 57 interviews with managers, evaluation advisers, and consultants in East African field offices and headquarters of a bilateral donor, who, through labor at multiple localities, animate the evaluation system of an agricultural development initiative. Utilizing an institutional ethnographic approach sharpens analysis of the governing power exerted through evaluation systems, while being attentive to the constitutive power of everyday actions of development workers as they animate and make evaluation ‘happen.’ This paper argues that institutional ethnography provides rich insight into the agency/structure debate by focusing on metrics as a form of global governance within transnational bureaucracies. Evaluation systems induce diverse professionals to work together to turn the particularities of social life in varied communities into fact-like knowledge digestible to funders and policy-makers. In doing so, I suggest that evaluation systems shore up quantitative knowledge, deprioritize transformative development agendas not easily measured, and narrow the space for learning, despite official stated goals to the contrary.