Theorising Resistance in Development Workshop
University of Manchester
12 – 13 June 2014
Across different disciplines and within different cultures and contexts there exists an enormous breadth of ideas and understandings of resistance, and its various articulations such as rebellion, protest and denunciation. There has recently been a huge amount of popular and public debate around, for example, resistance in the Middle East and its ‘Arab Spring’, anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation movements in the context of financial crises, forms of civil disobedience in autocratic state contexts and everyday forms of resistance. While these topics are frequently addressed within development, and even though ‘resistance’ has become a key focus in discussions of North-South relations, there has been limited scholarly attention paid to how resistance can be theorised in the context of Development Studies. This specificity is important as resistance has been interpreted in such diverse and multiple ways that it is in danger of becoming an empty signifier for a disparate set of debates whereby some scholars see resistance as almost everywhere while others see it as nowhere. Moreover, studies often fail to differentiate between a politically strategic use of the term ‘resistance’ in specific oppositional struggles, and an analytical use, which pays more attention to the multiple and varied forms of resistance.
This workshop will critically explore some of the ideological underpinnings of discourses of resistance in Development Studies and the theoretical assumptions on which they are based. It will contribute to gaps in understandings of the relationship between theoretical approaches to resistance and empirical analyses of socio-economic, political, historical, and institutional change, induced by oppositional action. The workshop contributions will draw on historical and contemporary conceptions of resistance and reflect critically on how representations of resistant individuals and groups are racialised, gendered and class-specific as well as how they have been excluded, silenced or in some cases co-opted. Together, the presentations will explore the possibilities of (re-)theorising resistance in Development Studies by drawing on a range of disciplinary perspectives from History, Political Science, Peace, Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, Geography and Gender Studies.
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