Navigating between ideas of democracy and gendered local practices in Vietnam : A Bakhtinian reading of development aid practice

by Minna Hakkarainen

Institution: University of Helsinki
Department: Department of Economic and Political Studies
Year: 2015
Keywords: kehitysmaatutkimus
Record ID: 1141347
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/152737


Abstract The study draws on the findings of previous ethnographic studies that picture development practice as a space of contestation in which actors engage with cultural values, history and the socio-political context in ways that create deviations from the project script . The study adds to the debate by approaching the contestation as taking place in language that reflects both existing realities and the discourses in which the actors are positioned. The study conceptualizes development practice as a process of construction of, and negotiating over, meanings. The selected approach suggests that the ambiguity of words that manifests itself in development practice is necessarily a part of development practice as actors simultaneously belong to different and sometimes contradictory contexts in which words are given their meanings. Through case studies of two types of development interventions(a Savings and Credit Intervention and a Village Self-reliance and Development Intervention) by a Finnish NGO in Vietnam, the study drawing from a Bakhtinian reading of aid practice inquires how contestation over meanings of terms central to the NGO s development thinking contribute to changes in the NGO s aid practice in relation to the promotion of gender and democracy. The study argues that multiplicity of meanings has important implications for aid practice and for donors agenda of democracy promotion in aid recipient countries. Promotion of democracy necessarily calls for deep contextual understanding as meanings, manifested in concrete utterances, are also contextual and therefore,may vary in ways that hinder or slow down project implementation. Furthermore,the study argues that non-responsive behaviour to development interventions may reflect prior experiences of unsatisfactory state-led development projects and people s understanding of them. Moreover, the study highlights the role of gendered norms and gender roles in Vietnamese society from the perspective of grassroots democracy promotion by showing how they affect women s access to formal decision making forums in villages. Keywords: development thinking, development practice, NGOs in development, language in development, democracy promotion, grassroots democracy, gender, gendered norms, Vietnam, meaning construction, heteroglossia, monologism, dialogical relationship, Bakhtinian reading. Demokratiakehityksen tukeminen kehitysyhteistyövaroin on mahdollista, mutta vaatii syvällistä kontekstin ymmärtämistä sekä valmiutta aitoon dialogiin paikallisyhteisöjen kanssa. Suomalaisen kansalaisjärjestön Vietnamissa toteutettuja hankkeita tarkasteleva pitkän aikavälin tutkimus soveltaa ns. bahtinilaista lukutapaa sen analysoimisessa, millaisia erilaisia merkityksiä kehitysyhteistyön keskeiset käsitteet, kuten ihmisten osallistuminen ja gender saavat valittujen interventioiden sisällä ja kuinka nämä merkitykset ja niiden erot realisoituvat kehitysyhteistyön käytännön toteutuksessa sekä demokratia-agendan saavuttamisessa. Tutkimus osoittaa, että…