Power and Visibility: Development and the Invention and Management of the Third World

Peer Reviewed

Essay Excerpt

This article presents in a succinct manner the basic argument and the major results and lines of analysis of a doctoral dissertation on the constitution of a number of nations (much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America) as "Third World" or "underdeveloped," and their treatment as such thereafter (Escobar 1987). The study builds upon recent work in various fields on the dynamics of discourse and power in the representation of social reality, and examines (1) the conformation of a new mode of thinking about social and economic life in those countries in the early post-World War II period; (2) the anchoring of this new mode of thinking in Western economic practices; and (3) the institutional practices through which "development" functions, at the same time enacting the discourse and creating extended cultural and social relations. Some of these issues will be illustrated with the experience of one country, Colombia. Finally, some conclusions are offered in relation to anthropology. (Escobar, 428) 

About the Author

Arturo Escobar is a Kenan Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"My current field research focuses on the interrelations among state, capital, and social movements in a Colombia rainforest region. I examine the interaction among these actors from the perspective of the cultural and political struggles over the definition of, and control over, the region's biodiverse resources. My most recent work identifies the political ecology framework developed by the region's social movement of black communities, and suggests that this framework contains important elements for rethinking sustainability and biodiversity conservation. On the theory side, I am most interested at present in theories of nature, place, and networks. I am beginning to develop a more substantial research program on anti-globalization social movements. This interest arises from several sources: witnessing the growing transnationalization of the social movement of black communities of the Colombian Pacific; becoming aware of the pressing need to undertake the ethnography of anti-globalization social movements, and working with several students toward this goal; and being involved in several networks. Among the latter, I would highlight the project I have been co-directing with Wendy Harcourt, of the Society for International Development in Rome, on "Women and the Politics of Place." This project brings together intellectual-activists and activists-intellectuals working with place-based movements in various parts of the world, particularly involving women. For more information on this project (including the project's background paper), see Society for International Developmenthttp://www.sidint.org"

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