This seminar is the fourth in our Diversity in Development series. The panel discussed connections between the world history of colonialism and related racism within the international development sector, along with their visions of decolonizing the development sector.
Moderator: Syeda Masood, HKS MPA/ID 2008
DISCLAIMER: This webinar transcript was loosely edited and there may be inaccuracies.
Syeda Masood: Welcome to the fourth panel in the Diversity in Development Series. My name is Syeda Masood and I am an alum of the MPAID program. I graduated in 2008. Currently, I'm a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University doing a Ph.D. in sociology. This series is a result of a collaboration between the Growth Lab, the Center for International Development, the MPAID Program and MPAID Alumni Community through Elevate, which is a group of alumni seeking to support the program in thinking more seriously about racism and colonialism in its curriculum. This collaboration is a testament to the interest in having a platform to talk about questions of diversity, inclusion and development in our community of academics, practitioners and policymakers. The broad goal is to have is to have thoughtful and informed discussions about racism and its linkages with colonialism in the field of development from academic and practitioner perspectives, as well as from lived experiences. I also want to acknowledge that Harvard University has pledged $100 million this week to redress its ties with slavery. As the title of the session indicates, today's talk is about the connections between the history of colonialism in the world and the biases prevalent in the international development sector and the practice of development more generally. Both of our guests today will discuss what their vision of decolonizing development looks like and what the road ahead might entail. In previous sessions, we asked fundamental questions about diversity and development and heard from several MPD alums about their personal experiences at the intersection of that. Today, we go further and discuss how historical forces shape and influence the practice of development, quote unquote, as we know it today. Without further ado, I'm thrilled to welcome our panelists today. Zophia Edwards is an associate professor at Providence College in Rhode Island. Her research examines the impacts of colonialism and multi-racial labor movements on state formation and human development in the global south. Her work is particularly focused on the Caribbean. She holds a Ph.D. from Boston University and is currently writing a book with NYU Press. I found out recently on modernity as seen from the Haitian Revolution, which I'm very excited about. Olivia Rutazibwa is currently an assistant professor in human rights and politics in the Department of Sociology at London School of Economics. She is an international relations scholar. Her research and teaching focuses on ways to decolonize international solidarity, including development. She is also associate editor of International Feminist Journal of Politics and recently joined the Editorial Board of International Politics Review. I want to welcome Professor Edwards and Professor Rutazibwa while also acknowledging that this is an all female person of color. And all the panelists will speak for 10 minutes each, and then we will have a 15 minute Q&A, a 15 minute Q&A between the three of us, and then I will open it to Q&A for from the audience's. Please feel free to write any of your comments and questions in the Q&A. I will read out your name and question to the panelists. I want to especially also thank Tim, Nikita and Chuck and the Growth Lab for their help with organizing this panel. An excellent way. So I want to first ask Zophia to start her discussion for the next 10 minutes.
Zophia Edwards: Thank you so much, Syeda. It's a real pleasure to be here today. I'm really excited for the conversation and I'm really happy to be on this panel with Professor Rutazibwa because I've been wanting to chat with you for a long time. So I'm very excited for this for this panel today. So I'll start with sort of this book that I want to kind of draw attention to that has been marginalized in development studies. This year is the 50th anniversary of Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. And about a month ago, the Walter Rodney Foundation hosted a celebration for the anniversary of this seminal text. Walter Rodney was a Guyanese born historian, a committed Pan-Africanist and Marxist in the Caribbean radical tradition. And he first published this book in 1972, just before his 30th birthday. While this work is under appreciated in mainstream development studies, the text is globally recognized as essential work on African political economy and development. And in this book. Rodney does a lot of things. He extends a meticulous and a rigorous Marxist analysis to African economic and social conditions, and he exposes how underdevelopment was produced actively generated by centuries of systematic European plunder and the enslavement and labor super exploitation of African peoples. So he is different from many historians and social scientists at the time who places the blame of African development not on African people, but rather on the European driven global capitalist imperialist system as a whole. But the book is. Not just another argument within sort of what we think of as the dependency school of thought developed by Andrea Goodnough. Frank Cardozo For little, for example, because he goes beyond that, some of his noteworthy interventions include completely upending the dominant Eurocentric imperialist narratives about the economic and social conditions in Africa and challenging hegemonic conceptualizations of development. So in how Europe, underdeveloped Africa, Walter Reed argues. If under development were related to anything other than comparing economies, then the most underdeveloped country in the world would be the U.S., which practices external oppression on a massive scale. While internally there is a blend of exploitation, brutality and psychiatric disorder. So here, Rodney really flips the concept of development on its head. Of course, he sees basic indicators like food requirements, life expectancy, social services, public health and education as all important aspects of human flourishing. But he argues that the hegemonic conceptualization of development is specifically capitalist development, the accumulation of wealth through capitalist social relations, and that an integral part of capitalist development is racism and colonial domination. In fact, racial and colonial oppression, enabled capitalist development, and its ongoing operation as an economic system. European planters and miners. Enslaved Africans in order to exploit their labor power and generates wealth. Then, having become utterly dependent on African labor and African woman's reproductive leave, I will also add we should not forget this. Europeans in their countries and abroad found it necessary to rationalize and justify that exploitation. So they used and proliferated erroneous and unscientific racist ideas. I'll quote him again where he says Racism, violence and brutality were the combatants of the capitalist system when it's extended itself abroad in the early centuries of international trade. So some questions I want to introduce for us in this conversation today is what happens when we conceptualize development as racial and colonial oppression? What does this do to the study of development? How does this invert our understanding of which countries are quote unquote, advanced and which are not? And then, by extension, how would we measure racism, violence and dispossession in contemporary terms as well? And I would say that we do have dependency on the systems theory that these scholars are very strong in terms of operationalized in the colonial and neocolonial architectures of extraction and exploitation. So these scholars talk about, for instance, the adverse impacts of foreign direct investment, foreign aid, foreign loans, collapse of international financial institutions, and so on. On the autonomy and self-determination and development of countries in peripheral regions of the world. But I would say rarely do we see them articulating explicitly racial oppression historically or contemporarily as part of their analysis of uneven development. And then if we look at the branch of research. Most recently that looks at the relationship between colonialism and development in some of the most cited papers in these contemporary studies. They operationalized colonial domination or colonial rule, as they call it. As the number of Europeans who settled in a colony or the number of European descended people in a colony. The number of police officers. The number of court cases that were presided over by colonial officials, the size of the colonial state, the length of colonial rule, these kinds of measures and I'm thinking of studies like Acemoglu, Acemoglu and Robinson's work Mahony land these these these scholars and these studies invariably find that the greater the European presence in a colony, particularly with Acemoglu study, the more favorable the development outcome. These studies talk about the institutions that these Europeans built in these colonies, institutions of private property rights, law and order, etc., as positive attributes and. Well, positive attributes of colonial rule in the sense that this was the necessary administrative infrastructure that led to positive read development. But virtually none of these studies conceptualize racial domination as linked to colonial domination. But in Rodney's views, these indicators are precisely the indicators of the architecture of colonial violence against people who are racialized as non-whites for the purposes of legitimating extraction and super exploitation. And racism and colonialism are intimately intertwined. So Rodney, for instance, says, and I quote, It was economics that determined that Europe should invest in Africa and control the continent's raw materials and labor. It was racism which confirmed the decision that the form of colonial of control should be direct colonial rule. So what if we took a critical stance on colonialism and assessed racialized colonial violence, as opposed to this terminology of colonial rule as a driver of capitalist development in the core? How would we conduct our research differently? Conceptualizing development as racial violence and plunder might lead us to want to, for instance, measure slavery and its impacts upon long term development. Divergent corporate free development in the spirit of the great theory, another great theorist, Erik Williams. We might look at the rates of mood of colonized populations or reaps genocides that were part and parcel of capital accumulation. And then our interpretation of these studies would also have to be quite different. Radically different, right? Because if we if we go with Rodney's epistemological intervention, we would view states that build wealth through the organization and exercise of racial violence upon people that they racialized as inferior, both within their borders and around the world as underdeveloped. And then I think we would also have to rethink. What we should be aspiring to, what kind of world we want to live in. Rodney is one of the many black, anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, anti-imperial, anti-racist thinkers who understand and theorize this intertwined relationship between capitalism, racism, imperialism, exploitation and dispossession. Capitalist social relations are built on racialized exploitation and oppression. And even Dubois shares this revelation in 1940, where he says, had it not, had it not been for the race problem early thrust upon me and enveloping me, I should have probably been an unquestioning worshiper at the Shrine of the Social Order, an economic development into which I was born. But just that part of that order, which seemed to most of my fellows nearest perfect, seemed to be most inequitable and wrong. So these these scholar activists, these revolutionary thinkers, they envisioned a new world constructed to uphold racial and class equality and human dignity. Fanon, for example, argues that we must strive for a world that is free of the differentiations, the stratification, the bloodthirsty tensions fed by classes, racial hatreds, slavery, exploitation and above all, the bloodless genocide which consisted in the setting aside of 15,000 millions of men. Rodney gives us the tools for thinking about how we might conceptualize and study development differently. And I'm not saying in this talk that we should do more quantitative work or less historical work. Absolutely not. But I'm saying that this these are the dominant studies within development research that we see today. And what Rodney gives us is an epistemological intervention to be able to address these Eurocentric methods of conducting investigations and think about thinking about and moving towards development differently. Thank you.
Syeda Masood: Thank you, Zophia. This was really exciting and thought provoking. Now, I would ask Olivia to please start her 10 minutes.
Olivia Rutazibwa: This is really exciting. I also really wanted to meet you for a long time and the comments I want to make, it's going to sound as if we like talk together before and then like find out how we were going to talk. So in a way it becomes really good. I'm so glad also that you spoke of Rodney because it's a person I've been thinking a lot while preparing at this presentation, and so I will try to do three things in the 10 minutes I have. And the first one also refers to Rodney by way of introduction. I like to, you know, give a background, but also like explicitly ground, you know, the practice of grounding where we're speaking from. Right. So I'll be specific about where I think I'm speaking from. And obviously that does not necessarily apply to everyone. But I think it's it's good practice that we don't always see no conscious approaches to developments. Secondly, I would like to maybe offer by way of building on what we just heard. Three ways to conceptualize what it might mean to invoke the Colonial when we try to engage. And again, I'll give not necessarily definitions, but more instruments to think of what is it that we're thinking about rather than making claims like, this is the only way that we should understand it? And then lastly, I would love to think through what are some of the implications if we were to engage in decolonizing development, if that's at all possible. But, you know, even if we try and think about development in anti-racist and anti-colonial attempts, you know, so a bit I following also on Professor Edwards. So I think in the first sense, it might need to do a backgrounding. I would like to make explicit that I think or maybe the way that I would engage with it is to differentiate that the question of development as something. I decolonizing developments that might look different if you speak from a global northern perspective. And again, it's not necessarily just literally, you know, as an individual possession of this, right? But as the conversation that we having within the walls of a global northern institutions and a lot of our universities throughout the world have been quite violently westernized. So I think in academia but also in in Texas. So on the one hand, what does it look like to think about development if we're talking from the places that continue to benefit from colonialism in the present? And then I think additionally and that's also again where we're engaging with people like Rodney are just ourselves. There is maybe something about this conversation that comes to the fore, the sense of urgency we might have because we also speak from the diaspora, right. So I guess personally, this is what I would like to offer is both, you know, being quite explicit that I am not speaking from the Global South and I know the binaries a bit. It might sound artificial, but I think it's just about being. I don't know. There is so much in decolonizing discussions today that that that do not necessarily do that meaning that we continue from the global north to tell how the global such decolonize. I'm trying to make it clear that that but that's something that and it will become clear why change and make it so explicit. It has to do with reparations. And I've had conversations with my friends and colleagues do one that they like. We don't have time for that. We're doing something else. And it made me realize that, yeah, we might we don't all have to have the same conversation at the same time, but we can talk to each other, obviously. On a more personal note, I think if I had to background what where I'm speaking from is this fascination with global solidarities? In general and how they do reproduce commonality in the many ways that we've already heard. For me specifically, it was trying to make sense as a second generation in London of the discrepancy between the discourses around development and aid and assistance and interventions and everything. And the reality, in my case specifically of the genocide in 94, where you have an international community that just disappears. And I guess it took me a long time to understand that it's not just about making sure that our practices met better onto more systematically onto the discourses that, you know, again, the Global North has about its own solidarities, but it's actually about naturalizing those discourses. And again, as Sophia said, there's a lot of deep hierarchies, racists, fundaments that continue to be reproduced in that right. Like this, this mythology of, you know, the West having the moral high ground when it comes to human rights and, you know, where all these things have been invented, all of that. And again, I guess if we ask explicitly, we will tell yourself, no, no, but we have to nuance it. But a lot of the logic of how international aid is organized has a reproduction of this moral, technical, political, all these hype grounds that the moment you just scratch the surface of history, it just it just implodes. Right. So I guess that that's where for me very specifically, decolonial or decolonizing comes in. But it also makes me be that I might be speaking more about development aid in this context and development policy. And again, we'll see what that means. So secondly, I have to think of various ways that might be useful for us. It's what I think about in engaging the Colonial. And the first one is to try and engage with something to do with time, I guess. But it's also the concept bites us as if you mentioned colonial rule, which makes it sound, you know, quite technical or whatever. And so we don't have to engage with all the other stuff that comes with it. But the other division that we often hear within our discourse is it's a differentiation that is made in the colonial science between colonialism as a historical moment, as a formal form of governance. You know, we can think about it as flag planting. You know, you come to a place declared yours, put your flag, and then take over governance. And of that, often the reaction would be like, yeah, no, we beyond that, you know, that has passed, you know, the successful decolonization processes apart from the fact that we still have the settler colonial countries of the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Palestine and others. So there's a lot to be said about even that discourse to think that we've moved beyond the formal colonization of places and peoples. We haven't. But let's say that it's also, I guess, not really salient to pretend that the sixties didn't happen. So a lot of successful struggles took place. So the colonialism, on the one hand as the moment, but then the contribution for me from the colonial side is the concept of coloniality, where they actually try to say that regardless almost of where it happened, when it happened, whether it's and by whom, it's about trying to point at extreme power inequalities and all the institutions we have in place. To perpetuate those. Right. And I think those that distinction allows us to, you know, quickly snap out of this idea that it's in the past. What are you on about? You know, we're thinking about the present, especially development has a lot of presentism in it. Another way to make a distinction or not to conceptualize is the point immediately and not at the successful modes of governance, whatever, but the colonial. It's a system of destruction. It just it just is it's been always part of deeply destructive forces, destruction and extraction and within destruction. That's distinctions that are made from decolonial thinkers is one that points up the destruction of bodies, you know, genocides as genocide, not necessarily as a legal concept, but as, you know, disposability of certain peoples, but the destruction also of ways of thinking and philosophies, languages, whatever. And so they call that epistemic rights. And how that also goes hand in hand with the systematic destructions of life environments, ecocide. And so if we take these three together, then again, we won't waste time in. Was there also something positive about colonialism? We literally don't have time, I think, to have to have that. And lastly, I think it's important, especially with development cooperation, thinking that the colonial always has been an imposition as well, an imposition of one way of being, understanding, knowing, doing that is then declared as a universal one to go for. And development obviously also is very, very much at the center of that. So that invites us to actually think about the extent to which if we want to decolonize anything, it's not just about what can we do more efficiently, but also what do we have to stop doing. So in a one minute that I have less about the implications that I'm sure that a lot will come in, in, in the Q&A, maybe following on on the third point I made about the Colonial as an imposition, I think it invites us to think about abolition and not just reform of development or whatever, but there is something about especially development. It's especially if we call it AIDS after the whole colonial thing that it just becomes quite obscene to call it. You cannot help someone after you've left the lines, because then you would have to turn around and speak about repair reparations, which would entail a deep and dislocation of power. And the other one would be to prescribe development and then more development in terms of how what Rodney thought of it, because and I'm paraphrasing, but for him, development has something to do with people's ability to adapt themselves to their life environments in the best of ways that can be done in many different ways. So that's also one of the things that I take from his. So it would involve, I think, re inscribing the project of development at the service of life, which is not always the case for all the reasons that have been summed up, but also maybe engage in some sort of see where this homogenizing process, where it's okay from what you tend to think for the rest of the world, how this should develop is quite problematic. And also following on what Sophia was saying, it also requires us to reengage with the question of capitalism as capitalism as a force of death and destruction. It's quite important. And then I think lastly, to come back to the time frame, it also invites us to really actively fight against colonial amnesia, pretending that stuff didn't happen and also white innocence. And what's here is a wider category than phenotype. But there is such a strong desire for innocence that is reproduced through development AIDS that I don't think we can sustain in the long run. So yeah, 11 minutes I'm going to stop here, but I'm very much looking forward to the questions that might come our way. Thank you very much.
Syeda Masood: Fantastic. Thank you both for these thought provoking starting comments. And now what I was thinking, actually, what I tried to do is to have an academic who thinks from a positive, positive perspective on these questions. But somehow that wouldn't happen in the time that we were able to be here. So I am actually wearing my hat as a development practitioner from, you know, pre PhD days and asking some, some questions from both of you guys who are like working in a paradigm which is actually quite different from how development was, was taught to me at least. And many of my very well-meaning and lovely friends still work in the development sector. So they also asked me some some of these questions when I wanted to have similar discussions with them. So first of all, I so I'm starting the 15 minute clock now. So my first question is like if a well-meaning person works in, for example, the World Bank and the minister of an African nation, for example, Sierra Leone, for example, asks them not just ask them, but begs him for money, for education, for for his country. Why what he is doing is bad. Isn't that what he is doing is actually something very good because apparently, like the minister who represents an African country, wants money pretty badly. What what are your thoughts about it?
Olivia Rutazibwa: So yeah. The practical questions, they're always the most challenging one again, I think, and it's not a cop out, but I want to say it and then move on from that. But I think it's quite important that we would be more specific on who's answering this question because there is not, you know, but so if I happened to answer it, first of all, I would invite that minister of Sierra Leone to refrain from begging. But he could formulated as as prepare reparations. I mean, and again, that's something that cannot be looked at as an individual question or whatever. But, you know, there is something to be said that if the the money that is being requested is money that you ask back, or whether it's money that it depends on the goodwill of the person on the other side of the table and make it more concrete, I think. And I'll give the example of run it because I know it best. And after after the genocide, they. They realized, I guess, that they can't really count on the international community on the one hand, but on the other hand, also, they felt that there was no reason not to take the international community's money for the rebuilding. It's a very pragmatic approach to it. And what they did at some point was to say, listen, we have so many donors. You guys are all over the place. You know, even though we have like the Paris Agreement and all these different, you know, efficiency rules, it doesn't, you know. So building on that in those agreements, they said we will reshuffle it. And I don't remember the details, but let's say that Belgium for the longest time was giving a lot of money in terms of small agricultural projects. And maybe the World Bank was giving money for health care in the country. They said, we want to streamline it so everybody can stay around the table. But Belgium, from now on, you guys will invest in health care and we'll take care of our own organizing of of agriculture and World Bank. You guys can give bigger sums for more general projects. Again, within the country, there's probably a lot of also ideological differences that people might have. But what is important, I think, in this example is that it's not outsiders that will distribute the money or decide how it's going to go. Right. And so for for a lot of the people and run the government for them, it was more like it's literally not their business. They have a duty to give us money and then we'll we'll sort it out. And it had a big backlash and a lot of at the very short term, a lot of this small farmers that were building their their businesses with Belgium Project Money, they saw that they they left change rights like in a negative way, maybe in the short term and also a lot of Belgian NGOs. Started being like really upset because a lot of the money goes to them from the government but to governments to run it. So, so basically this whole reshuffling did not make that many people happy in the short term. But that would be my answer to that. It's it's about we have to dislocate the power. And part of the power is agenda setting. But it does not mean that that the duty to at least redistribute some of the money that keep on stealing from the people or not, that does not dissipate when we say we pay or when we say stop doing this or when we say abolition. Right. And so that's why the historical and the present, I think, really, really comes together. It also explains why it doesn't really often happen. And that's why I think it's more important to think about development through abolition and trying to reform it because we've reformed it a billion times. It's not that people within development sector have not thought of of reform. Right. Very long answer. I'm so sorry. But yeah, that's that's that would be my first reaction.
Syeda Masood: Oh, fantastic. What, what are your thoughts Zophia of this?
Zophia Edwards: Yeah, I mean, I agree with that 100%. I mean, I think that there is the practical element to this. And of course, you know, we we have I'm thinking specifically of the Caribbean Commission right now that is trying to push for reparations and that, you know, reparations for slavery and genocide and dispossession. And I think it is is really important what one piece of this that's really important is exactly that question of how that reparations then gets distributed. If they get reparations, how it will be distributed and distributed, and who will control that process and what is the vision. So, for instance, there are different articulations of sorts of what what do you do with reparations? The American Descendants of Slaves group has a different articulation from the Caribbean community. So so you know, how that gets distributed is, is, is a very important question and where are the people, the masses, voices and that. And then the second piece of this is I think often times this gets seen as an either or, you know, either you ask for reparations or you maintain the same situation that you have now. And I think that. You know, there is no there's nothing precluding I don't think it precludes still organizing towards radical change and radical transformation. So in that sense, you know, I don't see those things as being in conflict. I do see the problem with the with with begin. Right. Because that's incredibly problematic. But in terms of seeking justice through reparations and through transformation, I think those are still sort of consistent with with with radically changing things.
Syeda Masood: Fantastic. My other question was about the field of development economics, which is quite a strong field in agenda setting, field in development studies and broadly speaking, development economics teaches people how countries of the Global South can somehow become countries as rich as countries of the global north. And what are the different? Like, things that they can do. Maybe they have like, quote unquote, weak institutions or governance, or maybe they don't have enough industrialization. But my question is like, did Europe and its settler colonies develop because they did something particular and whether it can be replicated by countries of the Global South?
Zophia Edwards Well, I'll I'll answer briefly. And I think that, you know, this is, again, why history is so important, and which is why I wanted to make the point that I'm not advocating for sort of more number crunching because history is so important. And I think this is what's severely missing from sort of the development economics fields. And, you know, a lot talked about much of development studies in general is it's so ahistorical that we don't you know, you cannot recommend in 2020 to a path that, you know, to follow some sort of western path when so many of the things that European countries did to accumulate that wealth had just no longer legitimate in the eyes of I mean, for people who have been racialized and colonized, it was never legitimate. But they now see it as white people. Also somewhat some some some of them see it also as illegitimate. And so it's not the same world historical context and that. And so I find that whole thing, the whole sort of prescribing a model based on a completely different historical context to be incredibly problematic in that sense. And then secondly, you know, again, coming back to Walter, Rodney's sort of definition of development, is that even what we want to look like? Right. You know, maybe we don't want rampant poverty caused by inequality and capitalism. So I think that, you know, these recommendations, these sorts of prescriptions are really coming from an imperial lens and an imperial position and is perpetuating the same problems that know puts us here in the first place.
Olivia Rutazibwa: Yeah, I agree. And that and I'm not going to pretend that I'm an economist by any shape or form, but I think what what I meant would we need to be more explicit in reckoning with the capitalist system that is presented to most of us? Again, if you study in a Westernized university, it's like just really difficult also to come up with an alternative because then people say, oh, but communism. And that didn't work either. Right? And that's that's the end of the imagination. So I'm not even going to go there. But I think what again, engaging the Colonial shows this. Is that we have to stop fragmentation. The fragmentation of world history. Right. And so, again, how the good in the literature doesn't really matter, but there is this and kind of I think started doing it where we never speak about modernity in isolation, it's always modernity slash coloniality. And I think that's quite helpful also for development economics, for economic studies in general. And I don't maybe we should stop teaching development economics separately as if we have to study poverty on the one hand, completely detached from how we we study or teach wealth. And so once you do that. Then it is just becomes really difficult to advocate for capitalism as a superior model. That because is literally one that advocates for wealth accumulation which you know, if it were successful, maybe were not against it. But most of it has been done by not paying for whatever labor that care. You know, so it's such a faulty system that by definition it will never. So the mythology about capitalism is that it potentially creates the most wealth for the most modern people is simply a lie. I don't even have to be an economist for that is the other way around. It's really the concentration of wealth in really small hands, in big hands of a small group of people. And I guess there is a special issue that came out. I can I can look it up later and I'm very bad at remembering names, but that's one example that really helped me out understanding it. I think one of the starting stories in many economics handbooks of macroeconomics introduction is this whole story of Robinson Crusoe on his island. And, you know, this individual that, you know, with his own bare hands, whatever managed to do. And it's this whole idea of the rational man making rational choices. But then you have this other character of Friday who basically probably did all the work and you write them out, both of the mythology, but also very much on how you teach rational ties within economic models, whatever. So, so, so focusing on the economic and the colonial just produces of science. So it's not even about just social justice or whatever. It's like you cut out two side of the story and then you try to reproduce whatever mythological version of it. And then after 60 years you wonder, why is it not working? So I don't know. That would be again, my short answer to that. But it's an important question, especially for those disciplines that look as if we can just teach them in positive, straightforward ways with its own laws and whatever I would say, history. But also maybe we have to introduce much more politics as well within that. And I don't mean party politics, but maybe ideological choices and explore other options. And they do exist. And that's why I mentioned the reversal. But we we have systematically written them out of our handbooks.
Syeda Masood: Yeah, actually, I remember I did my undergraduate in Pakistan and I remember we studied economics. The book was actually written by an American, and in the first few pages it talked about how economics is not a normative discipline, that it's a positive discipline. So these questions of what is right and what is wrong, I actually found it as a student of economics. I found those questions, quite stupid questions to ask even from my professors. And actually it was quite eye opening that in the other discipline that I am in now in sociology, there are consideration of ethics and it's not a stupid question to ask if something is is good or bad or like hurts people or something like that. So let's open the panel to we have 15 minutes left to the Q&A. And I will first ask the question that Orlando Coronado Fernandez asked. He said, Greetings, everyone, and thank you for your lecture. I would like to ask about the role of colonial institutions which which are the richest the government left behind from colonialism in development.
Olivia Rutazibwa: Maybe. Maybe more than. Yeah, it's a difficult question to answer. So I think on the one hand we can think of it not necessarily as just very particular institutions that are by definition colonial. What might be most colonial about them is the fact that we have ended up with a state structure or systems of governance. That presented as the only way to organize your life or to organize power or to organize. So when in development, we promote liberal market democracy and we don't even call it that, we just call it, you know, democratization or whatever. And it, again, is presented as this neutral, whatever thing. And I would say that that that is the problem. The other problem is that it's also. Systems of governance that often have very little to do with the people concerned. And with that, I'm not saying that people today are to not desire democracy. They always have. But again, that's a particular type of it. It has grown out from a particular situated ness in, let's say, Western development of their own states, which were never national states. They were always empires to begin with. So that's already a very that there is at least a connection between. Governance and those that govern and the people. And so that was copy paste it into situations. Where if you look at the formalistic things of doing elections or whatever, but the whole global system makes it such that even politicians with the best of intentions in many places, in actual fact, they're first and foremost accountable to outsiders. And there's no amount of elections that will change that. So I think that that those are really important things to think about because when we again, also many students like we're interested in Africa, what, oh, we're going to study corruption. And then the corruption is completely a historic like a historically approached as in for some medical reason, people in Africa are more corrupt as well. So part from being deeply racist as a reflection often again we don't study it and we place it in a prison and a very technically we're going to train people to be less corrupt, whatever. And I guess lastly importantly to understand that both the economy. And the political organization. That emotion during colonial times was always for the benefit of the outside. It was never for at the service of life of the people concerned. And I think the post-colonial moment has not been able to transform those institutions into something that that would reverse that, because even the creation of these countries was never about the people. So, yeah, I just spoke about the political institutions, but that that would be my.
Zophia Edwards: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this reminds me of I've been rereading Fanon Fanon's chapter on the pitfalls of national consciousness in Wretched of the Earth. And I think, you know, it still rings so true to me that these institutions have been, you know, they basically serve foreign interests. And so and they have been set up and designed that way. And so when we talk about decolonizing the state, what does that really mean when the people who occupy the positions of power within the. Now independent states are still oriented towards the Metropole, still oriented towards capital accumulation themselves and for foreign investors. I think, you know, this this kind of speaks to sort of just the inherent weaknesses of being able to to create to create something different. However, I think it's obviously not impossible because mass movements can push those states to alter the organization of those states. And I think in this. Particular. Historical moment. It's so necessary now. It's sort of urgent because we're seeing very, very clearly how neoliberalism has just exacerbated so many of these. Problems that the newly independent states just would not set up to deal with them. And I see the problems, I mean, for the people, for for working people. And so these institutions have to just go back to what Olivia was saying, and we can't really reform them. We can't really reform them. We just have to have something new. Yeah.
Syeda Masood: Thank you both. Sophie Gardiner asks What three scholars broadly defined would you recommend reading to learn more about neocolonialism today?
Zophia Edwards: Well, I will just say that the ones who I just you know, Frantz Fanon, I think is timeless. He should definitely be read. Kwame Nkrumah, equally timeless and continues to you know, you continue to see the operation of those mechanisms that they lay out so clearly in their work on the neo colonialism.
Olivia Rutazibwa: Yeah. As I said, I'm really bad with names if I'm thinking of something contemporary. And that's maybe specifically already in the state building literature. A book of a colleague of mine called Decolonizing Interventions by Mira Subrahmanyam really allowed, you know, goes back to some of this more fundamental literatures, obviously, but really applies it to the case of Mozambique. And, you know, really, really amazing and very practical, useful way of thinking. So she did fieldwork and just ask people like, how did you feel this whole and there's a lot of neo colonialism that that shines through that another way. And that's maybe not a name, but I would actually want to draw maybe people's attention to conversations that are ongoing in West Africa around this concept. So the currency there, which is still pegged to the euro through the French banks, and that's a very concrete, tangible way of for us to think about. And I'll put it in a chat to think about these neocolonialism we're talking about is not just in people's minds because, you know, there is still colonization of the minds, obviously, that continues, but it's also very much in you know, I think it lowered it a little bit, but at least 60 or 70% of the reserves of the countries that are part of are in French banks. Right. So when people say that France would not be anything without its colonies, it's very much in the present. So that that would be something else I'm thinking about. And I think, you know, not seen as a scholar often, but the late president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, he is a lot of his speeches are around. He had such a really sharp understanding of imperialism and colonialism. He was obviously assassinated. So that there are specific differences. He he has one of this the thing that he said, like, don't go and look further. If you want to understand what imperialism is and your colonialism, if you just look in your Bill of Rights, that's where it's located. So again, connecting very much the production of food, the control of it had a lot to say about development aid, but also very much about dependency that he he wanted to to break. So that would be another person I would I would point you towards. But after this call, I'd be like, oh, no, I should have said this really by witness. But those are the same and obviously everything that the US and I would. Yeah. Hundred percent. Thank you.
Syeda Masood: Yeah. Thank you both. Olivia, can you. If you have a chance to write the name of the president of Burkina Faso in the chat? Because I did not get that. Thank you. Oh, great. I would also say, Anibal Quijano, it's important to understand, Coloniality, because you know how we think of colonialism as something in the past and how it has nothing to do with the present is is something that he talks about quite well. Okay. So on that Adhikari asks, How should we view the role of private consultancies? Example McKinsey, Deloitte, KPMG at all that embed themselves in government departments in many post-colonial countries where they co-create new forms of exclusion, which is not imposition while doing development within a larger framework of racialised colonialism.
Olivia Rutazibwa: I mean, I would include them in my call to. For abolition, as in I see them as part and parcel of those that the institutions of international cooperation are a multilayered right in different states, not just state to state, whatever. So for me, they're just one of those actors there. The thing is that they're very. They're most explicitly linked to the to to the to the capitalist accumulation logic or the neoliberal understanding of what development should look like, but also how that that translates politically. So I would say that it's really important to study them in detail. I mean, I would have the skills, but so when I say abolition doesn't necessarily mean dismiss and pretend it doesn't exist. But as a question, I think it's quite important for us to unpack what is this? This is this beast that is international cooperation, right? Or the global system or whatever. And they're very powerful actors within that. And it might also help to historic size this. Right, because when, you know, we did the flag planting and I say we and it's really messing with my mind when I say so. But, you know, again, look at how it started. But it was not just our means that way and it was not just the brief. It was not just the teachers, it was not just it was engineers. It was like. So all these different actors have always been around and they've always been part of the same story. The problem is that the missionaries were the benevolent face of the colonial enterprise. Right. And I think, again, it helps too, because it's so clear that the missionaries messed up. Right. And in the present, we have no problem, you know, shooting on them. It's just really important to understand that the same logics are reproduced, but they have very different faces and those actors are part of that, I would say.
Zophia Edwards: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that is also a related interesting question to ask of these companies is sort of how, you know, why do. These governments call upon them, right? Why did they bring them in? And what are the whole processes there? Because, you know, this question of whether or not it's an imposition, I think is an interesting one, because it brings up sort of what do we mean by collusion and how this collusion actually operates on the ground. And I think that that's a really important question when it comes to these companies that seemingly act as if, you know, they aren't being cohesive. But then what does it mean to get a bad rating from McKinsey? Right. And what does that mean for those those economies? So, yeah, I would I would also put that into sort of what would need to be considered as part of the doing development work. Yeah.
Syeda Masood: Thank you. So we're almost out of time. But let's squeeze in one more question. An anonymous attendee asks, In your opinion, what kind of research can students do to contribute with the dialog and efforts of decolonizing development?
Zophia Edwards: This is a big question. This is that I feel like this is a big question because the field is so vast and what people study can be a lot of different things. But I think. What we can what we can really bring together. As sort of important themes in the study of whatever field it is we're in or whatever research we're doing, is sort of these larger questions of, again, re centering colonialism and coloniality in any study because it's so central to my identity and we really cannot divorce our understandings of the contemporary period with, you know, from from that violence and those structures. And so I would say that's one thing. Another thing to do is to. Think about the elevation of the voices of the people, working people, laboring people who are often marginalized in the work that we in the work that sort of people who are doing work on development even forget like, you know, those people. And so I think that's another important element in any kind of topic that we are studying is to really think about, well, what's, what do the people want and what are their visions and what are their articulations for the kind of world that they want to live in. And so I would just put those two pieces, those two pieces there.
Olivia Rutazibwa: You know, I think it is it is a really important question. And I've been I've been teaching international development for eight years, and and I've tried to find ways to move away from it. I ended up in sociology. I'm not even a physiologist that explains that, but I'm teaching human rights now and it's very adjacent. So it didn't really solve the problem, but while I was teaching it. I guess one way to think about it is that whatever you want to study. Be explicit about the purpose of your interests and a lot of the desires that come with wanting to engage with development. You know, they can be career, whatever that is. There's not a problem in and of itself. But a lot of. Mastery hierarchy erases what is reproduced within the development system. And a lot of our research questions reproduce that as well. So if you can already like try and be very explicit in study anything like, you know that we talked about before, you can actually have a decolonial projects that studies them in detail. So that research might not look very different from from the outset, whatever. Right. But rather than just take them at face value in the presence, as, you know, surveying what they do when they do it, whatever. But like, what would our research projects look like if you put it at the service of life versus at the service of power? I'm not even talking depth, but you know the flipside. But so the will to life versus the will to power, I think it's about mastery. Right. And so one thing to work for the UN is always a combined desire of both having an exciting job with exciting people, whatever, which is fine in and of itself. But the reason why my students would opt for the UN rather than a bank is because they do think that it is attached to positive change in the world. So if you want to commit to that, there are places where you need to think that you need to research on purposes that you put into it, that just it just doesn't happen to it anymore. It doesn't. And it doesn't make you a bad person if you do. So you can still decide to study or work in those places. But then you do it as at field work and study how power works. Would be like be explicit about how power appears in your research. That would be its fate, but it would be very important. And the other one, in terms of historic sizing, I would say it's important to ask yourself the question, where do I start the story of whatever I'm studying? And so when I was teaching international development as well, our general course is one on one. They would start with, I don't know, modernization theory on way in fifties, as if there was nothing else before. I change that process by having students to read first me civil discourse of colonialism. You just start somewhere else. You don't, you don't what? What does it do if in your in the beginning of your story, you take the time to understand where this poverty comes from, rather than just accepting it as today's value and then technically wanting to study that. So I know what makes the teaching and the research, but often obviously it goes hand in hand. But yeah, that's what I would say to you.
Syeda Masood: Okay. Well, this has been a very exciting and interesting conversation and time has just flown by. We are at the end of our discussion, and I would thank both Zophia and Olivia for this, for their time, for their thoughts, and for the fantastic work that they're doing. And I'm very looking forward to reading more from you as you as you write more about these topics. Yes.
Olivia Rutazibwa: So thank you so much for having us.
Zophia Edwards: Thank you so much. Thank you.