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Infographic with elements of development depicted.
Development is about more than just buildings and infrastructure.

So, what is development?

Development is an industry, a sector, a set of institutions, a mode of practice, a set of aspirations.

It is also a concept that emanated from the so-called ‘developed’ world to describe and represent the condition of the countries, peoples and states that are its targets and assumed ‘beneficiaries’.

Two provocations to think about here are:

  1. Development has a culture

    Development’s own culture is produced and enacted by global institutions, policies, governments, agencies, texts and policies.

  2. Development work occurs across social and cultural difference.

    Differences of governance structures and cultures, religion, family, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, justice and legal systems, economic exchange and reciprocity traditions, environmental values are all important considerations in development work.  

Sometimes these issues are downplayed when we talk about development, which is why it’s also important to think about:

  • inequity, poverty and exploitation, which are often seen as problems internal to a nation, a culture or a religion
  • whether the role of development is to empower and liberate women or something else.

Your task

To help us think about the notion of development as a culture, working across difference, let’s view development from a slightly different angle.

To do this, read the Burnum Burnum Declaration that was made on the bicentenary marking the establishment of the British colony of New South Wales in Australia.

Based on this declaration, what would be the first development steps for such a colony?

Discuss your thoughts and reasoning with other learners in the comments.

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This article is from the free online course:

Gender and Development

Deakin University

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