Partnership in and for development. Change, Contestation and Continuity

The western development aid hegemony and its constituent idea and practice of partnership are changing and challenged by the emergence of new actors and ideas affecting the established discourses of international development. China, multinational companies, private actors, philanthropy, public-private partnerships, digital industries, and various citizens’ grassroots initiatives are examples of actors and ideas that purport to act in the name of development simultaneously as they necessarily do not abide by the established principles governing development assistance. The emergence of new ideas and actors illustrate new discourses of global governance that eventually get their context specific, local renderings where issues of domination and contestation, translation and manipulation, are likely to be found. These global changes may suggest a new age of choice and thus greater autonomy for developing countries and aid recipients, which, in turn, challenge traditional western donors’ erstwhile regulatory hold over what development is and the way it is delivered, including the pervasive and persistent tenet of partnership.

The overall aim of this panel is to empirically and theoretically explore new figurations and translations of partnership. In an increasingly complex world with more and diverse actors purporting to operate in the name of development, the partnership concept is changing. Just as the relation is the atom of anthropological analysis, partnership is the constituent part of development corporation. It produces linkages between distinct and detached actors, facilitates a transnational flow of symbolic and material resources, creates power relations and reciprocal dependencies under the auspices of what is often denoted as a gift economy. Herein the formation of partnership takes place. Drawing on empirical research in diverse contexts and at different scales of ‘aidland’ we ask: what does “partnership” mean and how do differently situated actors conceive of, navigate and negotiate “partnership”? Studying partnership entails exploring social processes that are inevitably transnational, material, affective, multiscalar and intercultural. This involves unpacking the conceptual binaries often collapsed under the partnership concept – as e.g. north/south, donor/recipient, dominator/subaltern, structure/ actor, discourse/ practice – to rather study how these concepts and what the denote relate to and constitute each other empirically as well as theoretically. This, furthermore, draws attention to the structural and context specific power asymmetries among partners. Realising that power is relational, produced and articulated in the social interface of partners, suggests the possibility of resistance, reflexivity, translation and brokerage by involved actors thus taking part in the figuration and translation of partnership. To grasp the changing and challenging partnership concept involve we welcome papers that explores the interaction and intermediation of extensive actor networks and the social interface of different discursive practices, logics and life-worlds that occur under the rubric of partnership.

Paper proposals should be submitted to Jon Harald Sande Lie at  by Wednesday 13. May.