Q&A with Aram Ziai, author of "Development Discourse and Global History"

Aram Ziai, author of Development Discourse and Global History, discusses the key messages of this new edition to the Routledge Explorations in Development Studies series.

Development Discourse and Global HistoryWhy did Development Discourse and Global History need to be written?

Because many people in the field of development studies today are not aware of the historical context and the relations of power which surround the concept of development. They use it as if the concept was self-evidently benign.

Are there any key messages you’d like to highlight?

One key message is that the concept of development provides a particular way of conceiving global social and economic inequality, one which is often fraught with Eurocentric, depoliticising and even authoritarian implications.

Can you share a story from the book that illustrates this point?

I remember a demonstration in front of the Indian embassy against the Sardar Sarovar dam in India which was to submerge the villages of more than one hundred thousand people. Some of them stayed in the villages despite the plans to flood the area because they would lose their home and their livelihood and had nowhere else to go. So the demonstrators had written on a banner "No human sacrifices for development". Finally some high-ranking official consented to talk to the demonstrators. He pointed to the banner and said: "So you want our country to stay underdeveloped?"

What findings in writing and researching the book surprised you?

What was important to find out was that the discourse of development was not merely a project of the North, but that it was appropriated by the elites of postcolonial states for their own ends, e.g. to make demands in the United Nations because their countries were 'underdeveloped'. And that 'development' also carries the promise of global equality, therefore markedly differing from the neoliberal agenda.

  • Development Discourse and Global History

    From colonialism to the sustainable development goals

    By Aram Ziai

    The manner in which people have been talking and writing about ‘development’ and the rules according to which they have done so have evolved over time. Development Discourse and Global History uses the archaeological and genealogical methods of Michel Foucault to trace the origins of development…

    Hardback – 2015-09-14
    Routledge
    Routledge Explorations in Development Studies