Workshop: Historical Challenges to International Development – CALL FOR PAPERS

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Date / time: 1 May, 11:59 pm

King's College London

Workshop: Historical Challenges to International Development - CALL FOR PAPERS


Workshop | 12-13 September 2024 | King’s College London

Historical Challenges to International Development

Call for Papers, deadline – 1 May 2024

The Global Institutes at King’s College London and the Department of Development Studies at the University of Vienna invite paper proposals for a workshop to examine historical challenges to international development in the 20th century.

While it is a truism that development has long been contested, historical accounts of the concrete contests and challenges that accompanied, and often remade, international development both in theory and on the ground are still few and far between. Overviews of development history acknowledge intellectual and political ‘challenges’ to the international development system, especially in the 1970s, but we still lack precise accounts of these contests, or their impacts. This workshop aims to provide a venue to discuss how scholars can integrate historical challenges and resistance into the history of development, and international history more broadly.

Opposition to international development took many forms in the twentieth century. Imperial subjects resisted various colonial development schemes. Mid-century Communists denounced multilateral technical assistance as an imperialist design to exploit the resources of poor countries. Group of 77 representatives fought for a New International Economic Order, while academics formulated a series of critiques from Dependency theory in the 1960s, to World Systems theory in the 1970s and 1980s, and the postdevelopment school of the 1990s. Activists mounted transnational campaigns challenging the World Bank, USAID, and other development institutions. Grassroots campaigners highlighted the many adverse impacts of foreign-financed development projects—including displacement, unemployment, environmental degradation and health impacts—on ‘target’ populations across the Global South. Many of these challenges emerged from intellectual, political and activist networks that spanned the globe and bridged the divide between Global North and Global South in dynamic and often surprising ways. Others were strictly local, regional or national, reflecting the varying strategies and capacities of diverse groups with varying resources.

Situating economic, political and grassroots critiques in specific contexts will allow historians to bring in a far wider range of historical actors, agents and subjectivities into the history of international development, going beyond accounts focused on political and institutional elites. It can help scholars better understand development as a process involving widespread negotiation, compromise as well as co-option. It can also highlight vast differences across space and time, complicating studies that take a singular ‘development’ as their subject.

The workshop invites papers that investigate the specific contexts from which challenges to and critiques of development emerged, the relationship between on-the-ground contestation and academic theorizing, the personal background and life/ career trajectory of the actors involved, as well as the dynamics of contestation—that is, the emotional, rhetorical and political strategies of the different actors involved, why certain critiques gained prominence at a particular moment among a specific audience, and why certain initiatives lost momentum. It specifically encourages papers that span the colonial/ post-colonial divide and highlight less prominently represented actors from the Global South, but also the (post)socialist East. We also invite methodological reflections: How can we uncover and write these contrapuntal histories? Who are the actors and agents of this history? What sources are available, both within and beyond institutional archives? Which viewpoints are difficult, if not impossible, to adequately capture?

The workshop will take place on 12-13 September 2024 at King’s College London. We have limited funding for participants’ travel and accommodation expenses; please indicate if you would require financial support to attend. We anticipate that selected presentations will be included in an edited collection or journal special issue, with complete chapter-length essays to be submitted in January 2025.

We welcome proposals for 20 minute papers examining historical challenges to international development in the 20th century. Please send a 200-word abstract, author bio, and indication whether you require financial support, to or by 1 May 2024.


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