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Intervention or Interaction? Developing Ideas from Cambodia

Chapter in book
Authors Alexandra Kent
Published in Development Dialogue
Pages 165-176
ISBN 978-91-85214-66-2
Place of publication Uppsala
Publication year 2012
Published at School of Global Studies
Pages 165-176
Language en
Subject categories Social Anthropology

Abstract

This article describes experiences from a grassroots initiative for community development and peacebuilding in post-conflict Cambodia and suggests how these may critique the way that development intervention is used to further a global security order. Development intervention is delivered with the explicit intention of altering the target society in order to align it to a paradigmatic notion of world order. In this process, both the subjects of intervention and also the intervening policy-makers and scholars are guided by their historical and cultural backgrounds (cf. Der Derian 1995). However, interveners tend to regard the knowledge of the ‘intervened upon’ as local cultural curiosa while assuming their own knowledge to be independent of culture and of universal applicability. Reports that interveners receive of intervention in fact deepening power differentials and exacerbating insecurity for the intervened upon may therefore be read as irrelevant deviations from the norm. This article asks whether it may not be a cultural conceit for a set of norms and ideas that is upheld by today’s cosmopolitan elites to be imposed upon others; instead, should the intervention paradigm not be open to critique by subaltern experience and should different forms of knowledge not be given equal importance?

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