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Community Capacity Building

Transforming Amerindian Sociality in Peruvian Amazonia

Christopher Hewlett

This article examines the legacies of a missionary organization’s project to assist the transition of the Amahuaca and others in Peruvian Amazonia into permanent communities. The central aim of this state-sponsored project was to bring Amahuaca people into the ‘modern world’ and allow them to participate as productive members of Peruvian society. I take their approach of ‘intercultural community work’ as an early manifestation of ‘capacity building’ projects in the region. By examining the contrasting ways such transition projects have been framed by the organizers and participants over time, points of comparison can be identified between an Amerindian conceptualization of ‘transformation’ and the way ‘transformation’ is understood to be central to ‘capacity building’ projects within a contemporary United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] framework. I argue that it is critical to examine the transformative impulses of capacity building projects in relation to how change is conceptualized by those involved.

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Rachel Douglas-Jones and Justin Shaffner

Capacity building is a pervasive idea that has received little critical treatment from anthropology. In this introduction, we outline the growing use of the idea of ‘capacity building’ within and beyond development settings, and highlight mechanisms by which it gains footholds in both policy and practice. This special issue centres and questions its histories, assumptions, intentions and enactments in order to bring ethnographic attention to the promises it entails. By bringing together cases from different sectors and continents, the collection pursues capacity building’s self-evident character, opening up what capacities themselves are thought to be. By not taking capacity building’s promises for granted, the articles collected here have two aims: to interrogate the means of capacity building’s ubiquity, and to develop critical purchase on its persuasive power.

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Building the future

Construction, temporality, and politics in Astana

Mateusz Laszczkowski

This article focuses ethnographically on the built environment of the socalled “Left Bank” area in Astana, Kazakhstan. Previously merely a provincial administrative center, the city became the country’s capital in 1997; soon a new quarter of monumental, futuristic, and stylistically extravagant administrative, residential, and commercial buildings emerged. I argue that the construction effort produces complicity by mobilizing and channeling citizens’ agency. Against the background of recent history, it offers a sense of restored progress-directed collectivity within which individual citizens can seek to engage, pursuing more meaningful and materially satisfying lives. A selective vision of the city is propagandized widely, producing a hyperreal space that captures imaginations, set in opposition to more “ordinary” social space. The contrast between that vision and the lived realities of Astana causes disillusionment, but emic criticism of the political economy fails to transcend the logic of modernization narratives that the ideology of Astana’s construction rests upon.

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Building Capacity in Ethical Review

Compliance and Transformation in the Asia-Pacific Region

Rachel Douglas-Jones

Capacity building in biomedical research ethics review has been a European priority since the early 2000s. Prompted by the increase in data originating in internationally sponsored trials in emerging economies, a range of capacity building initiatives were put in place in the field of ethical review to ensure the protection of human subjects participating in research. Drawing on fieldwork with the Forum for Ethical Review Committees in the Asian and Western Pacific Region, I explore two distinct forms taken by capacity building within that organization to support and train members of ethics review committees. The first, with an emphasis on standards and measurability, takes as its priority international accountability for clinical trial research. The second explores how the organization goes about persuading trainees to see and do ‘ethics’ differently. This distinction between forms of capacity allows me to explore what will count as ‘success’ in research ethics capacity building.

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Building a House in Nepal

Auspiciousness as a Practice of Emplacement

John Gray

The subject of auspiciousness and inauspiciousness in South Asian society has largely been analyzed as a temporal condition in which there is a harmonious or inharmonious conjunction of people and events in time. In this article, the construction of houses by high-caste people living in a hamlet in Nepal is used to argue for a reconceptualization of auspiciousness and inauspiciousness as practices of emplacement in space and time. The analysis demonstrates how the rituals associated with the various stages of construction ensure the new house's compatibility with its spatial milieu—the soil, the site, the cardinal directions, and the reigning deities, as well as the vital force of the earth. Together with the auspicious timing of each stage of construction and its associated ritual with the owner's horoscope, the result of the building process shows auspiciousness to be a harmonious conjunction of person, place, and time.

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Capacity Building as Instrument and Empowerment

Training Health Workers for Community-Based Roles in Ghana

Harriet Boulding

This article examines the concept of health worker capacity building as it is used to facilitate the integration of social and clinical community health services. Focusing on the Community-based Health Planning and Services initiative in Ghana, this article calls into question the efficacy of approaches to capacity building which emphasize technical requirements over empowering health workers to actively engage with their communities on matters of health and wellbeing. Instrumental conceptualizations of health worker capacity building generate blueprints for social mobilization that only partially address community health needs, and produce new relationships of brokerage between health workers. These phenomena facilitate a discussion as to how transformative versions of health worker capacity building might be integrated into health sector bureaucracies.

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Capacity-building projects in African higher education

Issues of coloniality in international academic collaboration

Hanne Kirstine Adriansen and Lene Møller Madsen

This article studies issues of coloniality in so-called capacity-building projects between universities in Africa and Scandinavia. Even fifty years after independence, the African higher education landscape is a product of the colonial powers and subsequent uneven power relations, as argued by a number of researchers. The uneven geography and power of knowledge exist also between countries that were not in a direct colonial relationship, which the word coloniality implies. Based on interviews with stakeholders and on our own experiences of capacity-building projects, this article examines how such projects affect teaching, learning, curriculum, research methodology and issues of quality enhancement. We analyse the dilemmas and paradoxes involved in this type of international collaboration and conclude by offering ways to decolonise capacity-building projects.

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Catherine Alexander

This article focuses on controversial plans by the government to rebuild Aisha Bibi, a small, crumbling mausoleum in southeastern Kazakhstan, and thereby hitch its symbolic potency to the nationalist drive. There has never been one commonly accepted account of the building in terms of when and by whom it was created. Nonetheless, it has long been a site of pilgrimage for many different groups and, since the Soviet period, a source of scientific interest. Plans to construct a replica building have brought the multitude of previously co-existing narratives into sharp relief as the new version threatens to oust the others, effectively making one narrative claim exclude others. Further, as is the nature of all representations, the replica will halt and contain the unboundedness and perishability of the mausoleum which, for many local narratives, is an essential part of Aisha Bibi.

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Orit Rozin

This article portrays the shaping of the Israeli nation and the shaping of the Israeli family at the early stages of statehood and nation-building, in times of economic strain, austerity, and massive emigration. Food supply, food consumption, and food distribution will be discussed. It is assumed that these aspects of daily life express, construct, produce, and reproduce social relation and hence have close affinity to both social and national order. Israeli legislators discussing the austerity policy, Israeli housewives struggling to feed their families, and food habits of immigrants under economic and cultural duress are some of the topics discussed. The study portrays the role of the state in building the nation's social net and constructing its character through food repertoire. The role played by the state will be compared to that of other social and cultural agents.

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Jos Spits, Barrie Needham, Toine Smits and Twan Brinkhof

Many historical cities are built alongside rivers. Floodplains were attractive sites for urban expansion. However, the flood events since the 1990's have shown that many urban settlements are under flood risk. This research investigates how flood management and land use planning policies have changed after high water and (near)floods in the Netherlands, Germany, and France. In particular, it investigates how changing policies affect the development of urban riverfronts. Policy documents have been analyzed from all three countries and case studies illustrate the impact of changing policies on concrete developments.