Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Development Dinner Introduction

On Monday night one of my ZA friends invited me to a “development dinner.” The group mostly consisted of young professionals who are trying to better the world through social and/or environmental work. They meet once a month to discuss different issues; this month’s theme was active citizenship.

Their dialogue echoed many conversations and thoughts I have had myself. They also prompted new ideas that I’ll explore over the next few blog posts. Before I start delving into these concepts, however, I want to emphasize the perspective I take towards problems.

After the dinner, my friend said to me, “You were very quiet. Were you psychoanalyzing all of us?”

“I’m not a behaviouralist,” I answered. “I’m a structuralist.”

This means that I don’t focus on individuals. Instead, I tend to link problems to larger processes and structures.

For example, when one woman questioned her own views of right and wrong, my first response was not to wonder about her background or how these questions arose within her work. Instead I thought of Foucault’s discourses and the social construction of “truth” (a future blog post will explore this further).

Maybe I respond this way because I dated a psychologist for 5 years and he usually tried to explain issues through individualist biology and brain chemistry. Our viewpoints were so different that sometimes we became more extreme as we tried to convince the other of our correctness. But we also had many great discussions that expanded both our perspectives. So, please, never hesitate to question my evaluations or conclusions.

Sometimes it might seem like I’m connecting problems and underlying causes that aren’t related. But I’ll try to always provide sources to back up my assertions.

At other times I’ll probably skip over the difference that individuals can make. That’s one of my biggest weaknesses when I analyze problems – ignoring the nuances of reality while I try to paint a broad picture.

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