Post-graduate researcher training course on ”Intervention, local politics and the state”:

Invitation to apply for a post-graduate researcher training course on ”Intervention, local politics and the state”

Time: 14–16 August 2003
Place: University of Helsinki Biological Research Centre, Lammi, Finland

Participants: Registered Ph.D. candidates in Development Studies or related fields

Lecturers: James Ferguson (University of California, Irvine)
Christian Lund (Roskilde University Centre)
Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan (EHESS, Marseille)
K. Sivaramakrishnan (University of Washington, Seattle)

Costs: Ph.D. candidates who are accepted on the basis of their application and abstract can participate free of charge (room and board, workshop materials, transportation from Helsinki to Lammi). Travel costs to Helsinki are the participants' responsibility.
Deadlines: Registration: 30 April
Paper: 30 June
Organizer: The Finnish Graduate School in Development Studies (Devestu)/University of Helsinki, Institute of Development Studies

Contact: Jeremy Gould (workshop coordinator)


Development interventions, especially when targeting complex and multiform social institutions at the local level, invariably have unintended consequences. The deregulation of trade in agricultural produce can unwittingly affect patterns of land use and ownership. Interventions seeking to empower poor women can generate conflicts within and between households. An important and little-studied unintended outcome of development interventions is their consequences for local power relations, and spinning off from this, for the way that citizens and states interact. Direct development interventions typically occur in social arenas that are permeated by local level politics, where 'politics' refers to something much, much broader than party dynamics and electoral cycles. Indeed, development interventions - and the resources they introduce into the social arena - often generate a specific kind of politics characterised by 'donor interests,' 'disempowered communities,' 'dysfunctional states' and a diverse gallery of entrepreneurial brokers mediating among these various 'stakeholders.'


Contemporary studies of local social arenas emphasize their 'semi-autonomous' nature (S.F. Moore, C. Lund), implying that 'the state' has little significance at this level. This premise is in reaction to an earlier 'state-centric' view of post-colonial societies that reduced social processes in general and politics in particular to the intentions of state actors at every level. A 'society-centric' approach undoubtedly allows for a much richer understanding of local dynamics. But it is not unproblematic. First, are we to assume that '(local) society' is fully self-regulated? Such autonomy is hard to imagine in the contemporary world. Granted, local social order is rarely enforced in post-colonial situations by the official bureaucratic structures of a Weberian state. Still, local social behaviour is governed in ways that presume super-local regulation, some form of 'government' that derives from authority 'elsewhere.' A society-centric perspective may downplay, second, the importance of state-making (to invoke Sivaramakrishnan's term) as a dimension of strategic action in local arenas. 'State-making,' in this connection, refers to interactions through which actors incessantly negotiate the terms and mechanisms of social and political regulation. Third, a society-centric view can overlook the dense and complex interpenetration of 'state' and 'society' - what Akhil Gupta refers to as the blurred boundaries of the state. A key theme of the workshop, then, concerns the implications of development interventions for 'government' and for 'politics' - both understood in very broad terms. How do interventions affect the dynamics of regulation, the relationship between rulers and ruled? How do interventions link 'sites' and 'layers' of power? What are the implications of different sorts of interventions in different contexts for the mechanisms through which social regulation - 'government' - is exercised? How do interventions, and the institutional arrangements they foment, affect political subjectivities, e.g., notions of political agency and citizenship? The point then is to think hard about interventions and power. Such thinking will undoubtedly involve a re-assessment of how we define and operationalize central notions like state, government, society, locality and politics.

Workshop principles and themes:

The guiding principle of this workshop is to expose Ph.D. candidates working on issues related to interventions to the work of leading scholars of development who have been instrumental in a non-normative reconceptualization of the state. Part and parcel of this endeavour has been a desire to analytically re-engage with politics in relation to development intervention. For many, the interest in politics and state-making has grown out of an empirical concern with development interventions. Several of the guest lecturers have focused specifically on the politics of natural resource management. For the most part, but not exclusively, this body of scholarship has trained its sights on the dynamics of 'local' political arenas. An important thread of discussion at Lammi is likely to coalesce around the problem of the boundedness of local politics, in both an analytical and an empirical sense.

Themes that are likely to draw attention in workshop talks and discussions include

1) The consequences of localized development interventions. Presentations might discuss, for example, impacts on class formation,
accumulation strategies, political accountability, or the formation of political subjectivities.
2) The social, political and environmental consequences of deregulationist policies in localized arenas. For example, what happens to the state in times of political devolution? How does the privatization of development, and the deregulation and disinvestment of public sector enterprises affect the emergence of new kinds of 'enterprising citizens'?
3) Competing forms of authority and normative systems in local arenas. Analyses might focus, among many possible themes, on the relationship between 'traditional' and 'modern' registers in political rhetoric and action, or on what has been termed the 'outsourcing' of state authority to vigilantes or privatized forms of coercive power.
4) The roles and functions of brokers and brokerage in state-society relations.
5) Civic activism and policy advocacy as forms of state-making. Papers are invited on these and other topics related to the over-arching workshop theme of 'Intervention, local politics and the state.'

Course methods

Coursework at Lammi will involve lectures and more intimate discussions of the participants' papers in small, thematic groups. The focus of all activities is to support the participants' thesis projects. In addition to the formal activities, the visiting scholars and other resource people will be available for private discussions over coffee and meals, during walks in the old-growth forests surrounding the research station, or on the porch of the lake-side sauna.

Applying for the course

The course is open to anyone registered in a university-level Ph.D. program in Development Studies or related discipline in any country.
Prospective participants should send an application including the following information: . Programme/university department and year registered in programme . Name(s) of supervisor(s) . Source of funding (if any) . Thesis topic . Current situation and estimated date of completion of thesis . Short abstract (<500 words) describing the paper that will be presented at the course.

The deadline for applications is 30 April 2003 (Applicants will be informed of their acceptance by 15 May).

Finalized papers of 5 000 words or less must be submitted by no later than 30 June 2003 for distribution to fellow participants and course facilitators.

For more information contact workshop coordinator Jeremy Gould.


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