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Gender, Power and the Knowledge-for-Development Agenda

NARAYANASWAMY, LATA (2010) Gender, Power and the Knowledge-for-Development Agenda. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (Lata Narayanaswamy PhD Thesis) - Accepted Version


In a highly influential report written in 1998, The World Bank promoted the idea that a lack of information and knowledge was one of the key barriers to development in the Global South. The hegemonic discursive and financial control upheld by the World Bank and Northern donors continues to generate considerable criticism in development theory and practice. Yet the consequences of the proliferation of knowledge-based development practices into the routine functions of civil society that followed the establishment of the World Bank knowledge paradigm, even where these initiatives have been explicitly designed to be more ‘progressive’, is an area of development discourse and practice that remains under-researched.

Using a qualitative, multi-site ethnography to analyse the discursive ‘site’ created by the information flows between and beyond a Northern-based gender information service and their users and recipients in New Delhi, India, this research investigates the function of knowledge-based development aid. Specifically, this study seeks to interrogate the capacity of donor-funded women’s NGOs and networks acting as information intermediaries to promote more positive development outcomes through the production and dissemination of information for a range of development stakeholders in both Northern and Southern contexts, notably those groups marginalised from the dominant development infrastructure.

This research suggests that notions of ‘progressive’ knowledge practice are confronted by three main constraints. Firstly, discursive and pedagogical barriers embedded in information and its delivery persists despite mechanisms designed to improve accessibility. Secondly, the production and dissemination of increased volumes of information has become an end in itself, de-linked from their contribution to development outcomes. Finally, actors based in the ‘South’ remain unproblematised in knowledge-based development discourse and practice, thereby obscuring class and educational divides that reinforce inequalities not just between the North and the South but also within and between Southern contexts.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:development; knowledge; feminism; postcolonialism; World Bank; NGOs; women
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Dec 2010 11:21

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