Inside the Everyday Lives of Development Workers: The Challenges and Futures of Aidland

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Anne-Meike Fechter, Heather Hindman
Kumarian Press, 2011 - 224 pages
* Explores the social and cultural worlds shaping aid workers and their development practices
* Shows how aid workers in the field negotiate a variety of often conflicting and contradictory imperatives of the development system

Much and warranted attention is paid to the lives of aid recipients – their household lives, saving habits, gender relations, etc. It’s held that a key to measuring the effectiveness of aid is contained in such details. Rarely, however, is the lens turned on the lives of aid workers themselves. Yet the seemingly impersonal network of agencies and donors that formulate and implement policy are composed of real people with complex motivations and experiences that might also provide important lessons about development’s failures and successes.

Hindman and Fechter break new ground by illuminating the social and cultural world of the aid agency, a world that is neglected in most discussions of aid policy. They examine how aid workers’ moral beliefs interlink and conflict with their initial motivations, how they relate to aid beneficiaries, their local NGO counterparts, and other aid workers, their views on race and sexuality, the effect of transient lifestyles and insider language, and the security and family issues that come with choosing such a career. Ultimately, they arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of development processes that acknowledges a rich web of relationships at all levels of the system.

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About the author (2011)

Anne-Meike Fechter 's early work focused on Euro-American corporate expatriates in South East Asia. The resulting monograph, entitled Transnational Lives: Expatriates in Indonesia (Routledge 2007), analyzes Euro-Americans working in Jakarta within the context of transnationalism and globalisation. More recently, she has begun a research project on aid workers as mobile professionals with particular regard to Cambodia, which follows their careers, life courses and experiences of place while on an overseas posting. She is also editor, with Anne Coles, of the volume Gender and Family among Transnational Professionals (Routledge 2007), and with Katie Walsh, of a recent special issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2010) which presents studies in the framework of Post/colonial Encounters: Expatriates in Comparative Perspective.

Heather Hindman started her academic career as a scholar of Nepal. Early work on elite ethnic organizations in Kathmandu elided into an interest in the foreign diplomats and aid workers with whom they often socialized. In a forthcoming book, Hindman explicates the social world of expatriates in Nepal as an example of the hidden actors of globalization. In addition, she has published on the influence of U.S. foreign policy on aid priorities, the training of expatriate personnel, the essentialization of culture and the hidden labor of elite transnational women. She frequently presents on her current research on the outsourcing of specialized services and the transformation of risk onto global laborers. In addition, she is active in refugee support, the Transnationalism Project at the University of Chicago and the Graduate Consortium on Womenrsquo;s Studies.

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