Why Must Change-Oriented Programmes Avoid Ethnocen Essay, Research Paper
For many decades the Western world has looked at underdeveloped countries and tried to solve the social and economic problems that these countries face. We have all seen the harrowing media coverage of natural disasters, such as the cyclones in Bangladesh and the drought in Ethiopia leading to hundreds of thousands of people starving to death. It is admirable that many richer countries have set up administrations that look towards these third world countries with aid and development in mind, even though that the overall welfare of the populations within these countries may not be at the heart of the governments objectives who advocate development. Development programmes and funds allocated are subject to political pressures and it may be that some governments may link tied development assistance with, for example, profitable import returns, arms deals, or political allegiances within the developing countries borders. The administration that is responsible for funding or maintaining a particular development is then looking at the developing country at a macro-level , that is, looking at the country from all angles from a political perspective, rather than from a perspective from the indigenous peoples cultural, or micro-level . I will investigate the type of approach that most developers have taken when planning and implementing change and the anthropologists role within development programmes, find how this model in itself may be ethnocentric, offer an explanation of ethnocentrism and problems that have been caused because of this lack of understanding of other peoples cultures when implementing change or introducing development. The model generally used by development agencies is described as the modernisation approach, it assumes that, if these underdeveloped or developing countries as they are known at present, must, if the poverty gap is to be lessened, follow the rest of the developed world along the route of industrialisation and capitalist economy. The assumption is that if these countries have an orientation towards the future rather than basing their economies on what may seem as backwards traditional methods, they will increase their wealth per capita G.N.P, increase food production and export, leading to increased wealth and less reliance on development aid from overseas. Interestingly, the twenty poorest countries in the world already rely on agricultural or primary produce in the form of raw materials as their main export. It is to the importing countries benefit if these primary products are imported in this way, as prices are kept low for consumption by the people of the western world. To give an example, Ethiopia exports coffee beans to corporations in the west who use this raw product to create an instant coffee drink, making a profit. They would be quiet disturbed if Ethiopia started to refine their own coffee and exporting the finished product, good for Ethiopian economy but not for large coffee corporations. It is argued that capitalist multinational corporations have hijacked global resources leaving many countries in permanent debt. Developers then have argued that to stop increased dependence on development assistance from over-seas, industrialisation of the recipient country is the most effective method of increasing economic strength. This then means a whole new type of socio-economic structure within the community subject to this change, they are persuaded that their traditional methods of, say, agriculture are wrong and the new methods are better to increase yield. Development projects may be on a large scale for instance, dam building, or on a smaller scale, educating people to boil water before consumption. This is where the anthropologist comes in. The anthropologist, who may be employed by large multi-national corporations to smaller charity groups such as Oxfam, by nature of his/her work investigates the community under development, looking at power relations, kinship systems, economic structure, gender issues and a host of other social and economic aspects of that culture to find if any change implemented affects the cultural norms and to find any repercussions of change, over a short or long term time period. Developers because of their specialist approach may not be educated in social or anthropological issues and their methods of introducing a change oriented programme may be fine in an industrialised country but perhaps not for some developing area of the world. The anthropologist seeks to avoid this problem of ethnocentrism, the judging of other cultures actions on the basis of our own cultural norms or the introduction of practices to a different culture, based on our own industrial or economic values, to avoid any complications or the total failure of that particular aid programme. The anthropologist must look at not only ethnocentrism from the point of view of the developer but of the subjects of development also. Many aid programmes have failed already, some leading to more increased poverty, discomfort and even death, then leading to suspicion of local peoples, to western practices. It is then important for the developers to listen to the target population and perhaps for the anthropologist to act as advocate for these people. Here are some examples of how aid and development programmes have failed or have had implications for the communities directly or indirectly related to the development.
High yield live-stock have for a long time been a normal part of the western worlds farming industry, it makes sense to the average western farmer that the animal that gives the most profit in return of layout is the species to rear. According to Harris (1993), this was the ideology of an international development programme that sought to introduce high yield sheep for the animals traditionally used by the indigenous people in an area in Equador. After initial failed attempts were made to tempt the people into using this type of sheep, one farmer relented and took the stock. What the developers did not look at, was the fact that the people in this area belong to a caste system, a system that, very much like our social class system, stratifies people but this stratification is in relation to their birth. The Indian people in this area are close to the bottom of this caste system and are looked down upon by the farmers who inhabit the bottom of the valley in this mountainous region. These farmers when finding out about the peasant farmer with his high yield sheep became concerned that the social structure may change because of increased wealth and possibility of raised status due to this new found wealth of the Indians. They (the farmers) stole the sheep leaving the Indian farmer nothing, thus re-establishing their own social positioning. This social relationship can be interpreted on a smaller scale but perhaps with the same impact. Take for example an egalitarian hunter-gatherer group that before the interference of outside agencies relied on reciprocal exchanges as a means of economy and subsistence in the form of food sharing. Food products gathered in a days foraging are equally distributed between the family group and to some extent groups in the area. The hoarding of food does not occur as there is enough food to go round. Personal property is shared as well as blankets and housing materials, a repercussion of this is family or kinship ties are strengthened through a feeling of responsibility for each other. Within this group there is no need of formal leadership, the elders because of their life experience are seen as the decision makers and in general guide the rest of the population with the consent of all. Now imagine a development project that because of geographic location relies on labour from this group, the young are targeted to be trained in true western style, (the elderly are usually seen as over the hill in our society) and taken away to work. This group may have just lost a large percentage of their hunting capabilities, but more importantly the young with their new found wealth and ideas given to them by the developers may try to elevate their social standing, a move that does not correspond with egalitarian societies, leading to conflict with the elders and perhaps changing that cultures whole social structure. Harris (1993), argues that even the most advanced scientific interventions to help alleviate hunger and to increase exports have led to failure. This is due to assumptions based on western styles of agricultural technique. High yield strains of wheat and rice have been developed and introduced to many countries, this was at first a success story this leading to more countries being involved. The problem with these new strains of cereal and rice is that due to intensification they need additional irrigation and fertiliser, to combat this the farmers have used up water supplies and deforested large areas leading to soil erosion and loss of land because of flooding. The amount of fertiliser needed for these crops has outstripped any profit they may have promised, more importantly the point of diminishing returns has been reached where the price of fertiliser is more than the crop yield. This then throws the target countries further into the poverty and hunger trap. Indirectly the Beaver Indians in the Canadian sub-Arctic who have suffered through centuries of colonialism, are facing problems again through development. This group are not being asked to change rather the exploitation of natural resources are forcing change upon them. Oil and gas found in Alaska is being pumped through their traditional trapping grounds in above ground level pipes through Canada back to the U.S.A. It is reported that this has changed the Caribou migratory routes, a major source of seasonal food for the native people. This than means that the Beaver tribes must change their own seasonal routines which in turn affects their own traditional norms and has led to conflict with the Canadian Government political and economic interests (Brody 1982). These examples of ethnocentrism can be found again and again in text books relating to change in developing and developed countries. The anthropologists applied role within development agencies in both the practical and theoretical field, and as advocates for indigenous people, must be taken seriously if development and alleviation of starvation, poverty and disease, without the problems of ethnocentrism, is to succeed and be maintained in any culture. Bibliography Brody H (1982), Maps and Dreams. Jill Norman & Hobhouse. Harris M (1993), Culture, People, Nature. Harpercollins.