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Gender in Development

Rekha Pappu

Edited by Andrea Cornwall, Elizabeth Harrison and Ann Whitehead
Zubaan, Delhi, 2008, pp. 253, Rs. 595.00


The book under review actually has two titles, both of which are equally apt and arresting. Titled Feminisms in Development: Contradictions, Contestations & Challenges it has its origins in a workshop ‘Gender Myths and Feminist Fables: Repositioning Gender in Development Policy and Practice’ organized by the Institute of Development Studies and the University of Sussex at Brighton in July 2003. This latter reason explains why the trope of myths and fables is recurrent in most of the essays. A significant aspect of using the lexicon of myths and fables is the possibility presented upfront of tracking and understanding how feminist concepts and analyses that at one point carried radical political charge in their orientation towards bringing overall social and cultural transformation became diluted when adopted by the development sector. The Introduction outlines the mandate of the book in these terms:   This book attempts to put clear water between GAD [Gender and Development], as a particular form of gender and development practice and rhetoric, and the many different kinds of practices and discourses which make up the multiple field of feminist practice in gender and development. We argue that this is an essential move to repoliticize radical, feminist engagement with development (p. 15).   The forms of enquiry enabled by this framework acquire greater salience here precisely because they are carried out by feminist theorists, activists and development practitioners who bear the weight of experience and hindsight. They are for the most part self-reflexive and at times, self-critical; they are critical also of the bureaucracy and the patriarchal power clusters that determine policies and practice related to developmental aid. Some of the essays express anger, cynicism and disillusionment. But hope and wisdom gleaned from having participated in the processes of development too shape the essays. Together they explore a broad spectrum of issues ranging from professionalization of the field of gender and development to the larger global context of neoliberalism and of the uneven power relations between North and South.   Given that the international second wave of feminism coincides also with the introduction of women’s issues into the development sector, this book represents an important exercise in taking stock of the manners in which feminisms have worked (or not worked) in development. The anthology is no doubt an important contribution to the field of gender and development. While most feminists, especially those located in academia, are critical of development per se, the contributors to ...

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