The Women, Gender and Development Reader

The Women, Gender and Development Reader

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The Women, Gender and Development Reader II is the definitive volume of literature dedicated to women in the development process. Now in a fully revised second edition, the editors expertly present the impacts of social, political and economic change by reviewing such topical issues as migration, persistent structural discrimination, the global recession, and climate change. Approached from a multidisciplinary perspective, the theoretical debates are vividly illustrated by an array of global case studies. This now classic book, has been designed as a comprehensive reader, presenting the best of the now vast body of literature. The book is divided into five parts, incorporating readings from the leading experts and authorities in each field. The result is a unique and extensive discussion, a guide to the evolution of the field, and a vital point of reference for those studying or with a keen interest in women in the development process.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781780321387
Publisher: Zed Books
Publication date: 11/25/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 472
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Nalini Visvanathan is an independent researcher living in the Washington, DC area. Lynn Duggan is Professor of Labor Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. Laurie Nisonoff is Professor of Economics at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA. She is an editor of the Review of Radical Political Economics. Nan Wiegersma is Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at Fitchburg State College, Massachusetts. She is the author of Vietnam: Peasant Land, Peasant Revolution and is coauthor (with Joseph Medley) of US Development Policies toward the Pacific Rim.
Nalini Visvanathan is an independent researcher living in the Washington, DC area. A native of India, her research and publications cover women’s health in the population context, education and the empowerment of adolescent girls, women’s movements and community-based participatory research. Her doctorate is in interdisciplinary communication with an emphasis on development studies. Lynn Duggan, Professor of Labor Studies since 1997 and PhD economist, teaches at Indiana University Bloomington. She has written articles and book chapters on free trade and social policy, feminist comparative economic systems, family policy in East and West Germany, and reproductive rights in the Philippines. Laurie Nisonoff, Professor of Economics, has taught economics, economic history and women's studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA, since 1974. She is an editor of the Review of Radical Political Economics, and served as the co-ordinator of the RRPE 6th Special Issue on Women, 'Women in the International Economy'. She has published alone and with Marilyn Dalsimer on women in China, and on the labour process. Nan Wiegersma is Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at Fitchburg State College, Massachusetts. She has published numerous articles on land tenure, gender and development. Her article “Peasant Patriarchy and the Subversion of the Collective in Vietnam” was reprinted in the research anthology Gender and Development: Theoretical, Empirical and Practical Approaches, Volume I, Lourdes Beneria Ed. She is author of Vietnam: Peasant Land, Peasant Revolution and is coauthor (with Joseph Medley) of US Development Policies toward the Pacific Rim. She was the Women and Development Expert for the United Nations on a World Food Programme mission to Vietnam. She was also a coeditor of the first edition of The Women Gender and Development Reader. Nan was a Fulbright Fellow in Nicaragua, studying women's work in export processing zones. The research from this study was published in Women in the Age of Economic Transformation, Aslanbegui et al. Eds. (1994) and Women in Globalization, Aguilar and Lacsamana Eds. (2004).
Kalpana Wilson is a Fellow at the Gender Institute, London School of Economics. Her experiences teaching development studies in British universities, as well as her involvement as an activist around issues of racism and imperialism, led her to pursue the themes of this book. She has also written and researched extensively on agriarian transformation in Bihar in India, women's participation in rural labour movements and the relationships between neoliberalism, gender and the concepts of agency.

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The Women, Gender and Development Reader

By Nalini Visvanathan, Lynn Duggan, Nan Wiegersma, Laurie Nisonoff

Zed Books Ltd

Copyright © 2011 Nalini Visvanathan, Lynn Duggan, Nan Wiegersma and Laurie Nisonoff
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78032-138-7


The history of international development: concepts and contexts

Shirin M. Rai

The origins of development

Development is a relatively recent concept but one burdened by history (Woolcock et al. 2009). Development was brought into focus in President Truman's speech in which he claimed for the West the geopolitical space of development with the rest marked as 'underdeveloped areas':

... we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas ... I believe that we should make available to peace-loving peoples the benefits of our store of technical knowledge in order to help them realize their aspirations for a better life. (20 January 1949)

Dividing up the world in this way laid the foundations of not only the policy terrain of development but also the theoretical frames within which development has been conceived as well as critiqued.

The origins of development can be studied within two overlapping contexts. The first was that of the Second World War and the emerging post-war world order with the deepening ideological fissures between the socialist and the capitalist worlds as well as the consolidation of post-war hierarchies of power in the international system. The second was the context of the nationalist struggles and of the processes through which post-colonial states came into being and approached modernizing and development agendas. Both contexts were deeply gendered and framed gender relations; in both contexts the assumptions of universality led to a gender blindness which translated into particular modalities of gendered modernities and development.

The international divide

The post-Second World War world was a divided world, where a cold war took over from the military conflict that preceded it. The (in)famous 'Domino Theory' was the political articulation of this perceived threat, while at the economic level there was a recognition that the question of poverty would have to be tackled in response to this challenge. The Labour victory in the UK and the Marshall Plan were also indicative of the aspirations of the people in the post-war new world order, on the one hand, and the serious competition for influence to shape that world on the other. Through the 1950s, as the post-colonial world took shape, political alliances were based on the growing clash of ideologies. Revolutionary movements that culminated in the formation of socialist states, such as in China, were automatically seen as potential allies of the Soviet Union. Aid packages and trade regimes were often tied to perceived security concerns, making the attempts of the newly emerging nation-states to articulate their development plans contingent upon international politics. This state of affairs continued until 1991 when the Soviet Union imploded and with it also collapsed its satellite states in eastern Europe. In sum, the cold war between the two superpowers and the two ideological configurations had a direct impact on the alternatives that post-colonial elites felt able to consider and pursue. The ideological divide and the resulting security concerns led to different outcomes reflected in the institutionalization of the international economic and financial regimes, which continue to frame development policies on a global level. The Bretton Woods Conference was held in 1944, as the first phase of decolonization was about to begin with the independence of India in 1947. It resulted in the establishment of the two institutions that have played a central role in crafting development agendas in direct and indirect ways – the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. These institutions were set up to promote stable exchange rates, foster the growth of world trade, and facilitate international movements of capital. Their concern was to avoid the shortcomings of the pre-war international economic system such as protectionism, and competitive devaluations through the regulation of international financial markets. In the post-war period, the development focus of these institutions remained Europe and Japan. Their voting systems gave clear control to the larger contributors – the Western industrialized countries – thus marginalizing the emerging post-colonial nations (South Commission 1990). The Bretton Woods system was as much a response to the failures of the past as to the challenges of the present.

Together with the emergence of two ideological camps in the period of the Cold War, there also emerged 'Three Worlds'. The polarized worlds of the Western and the Soviet blocs were called the First and Second worlds, and the non-aligned countries trying to chart their own models of development, such as India and Tanzania, and later Yugoslavia, were the Third World. These countries came together for the first time at the Bandung Conference in 1955 to assert their identity, and to propose what we might today call a Third Way between capitalist and Marxist development models. The name Group of 77 also described these states at the time of the setting up of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1964. However, the unity between these countries could not be maintained for long as pressures of ethnic, religious and cultural historical divisions led to conflict between some. Increasingly, in the 1970s, the term Third World came to mark post-coloniality, and also economic position within the world system. GNP per head became the determinant of which of the three worlds a country belonged to, with the lowest GNP per capita economies placed in the Third World category. What the countries belonging to this category shared then was a history of colonial exploitation that allowed them to identify with each other; however, different colonial histories and processes of decolonization also led to fracturing of a sense of solidarity among these nations.

Development and/as modernization

However, there were also some unsurprising similarities between the two sides in their approaches to development. First, whether liberal or communist, both believed that development was a purposeful project – with 'resources, techniques and expertise ... brought together to bring about improved rates of economic growth ...' (Kabeer 1994: 69), which was the main target, and development agendas were geared to increasing its levels. There is a linearity that marks both types of development processes too. For the communists, development accrued when a country moved from a capitalist form to a socialist form of social relations, from the anarchy of the market to the certainty of planning. For the liberals, development occurred when human and physical resources could be developed through the force of rational individualism and the development of market-regulated competition. Second, for both sides, economic growth was tied to industrialization and urbanization of economies and societies. Mechanization of agriculture, the building of dams, and a general valorization of Science were common to both ideological camps. Both liberal and Marxist theories have in common elements of a reductionist methodology, with its determinate outcomes, its linearity, and hierarchies of knowledge leading to constructions of regimes of Truth. All these features, together with the political systems and ideologies arising out of this rationalizing discourse on development, had consequences for the relations of power within the newly emerging nations – especially relations between men and women, and between maginalized communities and the dominant groups. This is not to suggest that the differences between the two ideological frameworks were cosmetic. However, the similarities in the two approaches did create an international consensus around what development meant, even though the route by which this definition was arrived at was ideologically specific. Development became a metanarrative and, at the same time, a particular stage of economic viability.

These ideological frames of course also left an imprint on the study of development. For example, although by the 1960s China had developed an alternative model of development – alternative to both capitalism and Soviet-style socialism – this model is absent from the debates about development. No standard development texts explore the development experiments that were conducted in China – the land reform after 1949, the Great Leap Forward and the debates on development after its failure (Gray 1995) – which made a tremendous impact on other Third World states at the time. One reason, perhaps, was the absence of socialist China from international fora; Taiwan (Republic of China) took the 'Chinese' seat in the Security Council of the United Nations. A second reason for a refusal to engage with the Chinese model of development was its challenge – in terms of both rhetoric and politics – to both capitalist models of development and the Soviet-style centralized model. As an international pariah, China and its leadership were not taken seriously by either camp in the Cold War-dominated world.

What is clear in the brief outline of the origins of development is that it was insensitive to gendered power relations that are operative within its frame. The successful post-colonial nationalist elites saw themselves as participants in the regeneration of their countries through gaining independence from the colonial rulers and envisioning a 'progressive', 'modern' 'industrialized' state (Rai 2002). Indeed, the role of the state, of planning, of regulation and of rationality, was constantly emphasized in the nationalist rhetoric (see Mao Zedong 1941; Nehru 1990; Nyerere 1973), while overlooking and marginalizing the alternative visions of development that were articulated by subaltern publics (Sarkar 1983). Such visions of modernity had direct consequences for structuring gender relations in post-colonial states. The emphasis on industrialization, for example, meant that the focus remained on male employment; the acceptance of commercialization and mechanization of agriculture meant the marginalization of women's work in rural societies, and the 'taming of nature' by construction of dams across rivers – Nehru called these the 'temples of modern India' – for the production of electricity meant the displacement of populations resulting in particular vulnerabilities for women. Other than in the Marxist nationalist states, private property was taken as given. In terms of agrarian gender relations it meant that women could rarely inherit under recognized or accepted 'cultural' regimes, and this further supported the 'traditional' or modified colonial legal arrangements.

The linear and gendered discourse of development was, as noted above, institutionalized through both state policies and international institutions with particular gendered outcomes. State-led development led to concentration of power in the hands of the elite and the marginalization of the subaltern publics; the North–South divide congealed in policy and development frameworks proposed and implemented by the Bretton Woods institutions. This made for a powerful alliance that was kept in place by the philosophical convergence that equated modernity with development. The challenges to this dominant discourse came from different quarters and were variously successful in disturbing its power. Development remains, however, bound to its originary moments even as it adjusts to the challenges posed by globalization.

Mapping development

Development continues to be linked to economics – growth, modernization, industrialization, trade, the income of nations and the poverty of populations map the development of countries in the World Bank annual reports. Critiques of this economic focus have stretched the boundaries of development to include education and health in the UNDP's Human Development Index (HDI) starting in 1990 and gendered critiques of development resulted in the introduction in 1995 of the Gender-related Development Index (GDI) and Gender Empowerment Measure, which measures achievement in the same basic capabilities as the HDI does, but takes note of inequality in achievement as well as agency between women and men ( Time has been an important element in mapping economic development – the pace of change has been slow or rapid, leading to different challenges and outcomes; for colonized nations the introduction of industry and commercialization of agriculture were rapid, changing the social relations on the ground and creating both opportunities and tensions that were politically difficult to cope with.

The early articulations of economic development built upon capitalist social and political contexts – the argument was that capitalist growth was built upon the idea of democratic governance which allowed for the efficient functioning of market relations. Economic and political development then were seen to go hand in hand – first the challenge of the socialist bloc and then the 'third wave' of democratization consolidated arguments in this regard; political conditionalities of democratic or 'good' governance that were imposed on aid-receiving countries institutionalized this link (World Bank 1994). Political hierarchies were also mapped through the examination of the international system and how this impinged upon the development of the poor nations – the continued dependency of these countries on the powerful nations was articulated through the 'dependency theory', which suggested that it was the terms of trade of the international system which underpinned economic inequalities rather than any lack of democratic governance and that a 'delinking' from the capitalist world order was the key to the development of the poorer/peripheral states (Frank 1969; Amin 1970). The oil crisis in 1972/73 that led to the debt crisis when Mexico defaulted on its debt payments in 1982, which in turn resulted in the economic bail-out of Third World states through the structural adjustment policies (SAPs) of the 1980s promoted and implemented by and through the Bretton Woods institutions, underlined this dependence for some and the importance of liberalizing economies for others. That in hindsight SAPs are seen to have failed to stimulate sustainable growth in the affected countries did not change these political positions. In face of the sharp critiques of SAPs, the 1990s saw a shift to Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), which focused on the role of the state, good governance, 'country ownership' of liberalization policies and poverty alleviation. While this shift suggested nothing new in terms of relations of dependence in the international economy for the critics of market liberalization, PRSPs were put forward as the 'human face' of market economies by their proponents.

Development thus came to be associated with particular discursive frames, the unpacking of which led to struggles over meanings of development and its translations into policy – underdeveloped, developing, Third World, the global South are all terms that are used to describe the poorer nations of the world. The struggles over terms were about the way in which development was envisioned. The development imaginary reflected the dominant power relations as well as the challenges to these. The questions that were posed suggested that poverty can be as much of the economy as of ideas and culture; formal democratic politics that does not encourage direct participation in setting development agendas can only be limited in its scope. With globalization and the rise of 'emerging markets' that had been lumped together as 'developing countries' the distinctions between the first, second and third worlds began to crumble and new discursive challenges arose – the term global South suggested a greater interdependence between different geopolitical spaces (Escobar 1995; Crush 1995). Questions were also raised about whether development itself was a concept whose time had gone – post-development literature challenged the value of development as we know it, with its state-led, top-down approach to market-led economic growth (Pieterse 2000).


Excerpted from The Women, Gender and Development Reader by Nalini Visvanathan, Lynn Duggan, Nan Wiegersma, Laurie Nisonoff. Copyright © 2011 Nalini Visvanathan, Lynn Duggan, Nan Wiegersma and Laurie Nisonoff. Excerpted by permission of Zed Books Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

  • Part I
    • Introduction - Nalini Visvanathan
    • The History of International Development: Concepts and Contexts - Shirin M. Rai
    • Financial Crises and the Impact on Women: A Historical Note - Jayati Ghosh
    • Gender and Development: Theoretical Perspectives - Shirin M. Rai
    • Women's Role in Economic Development - Ester Boserup
    • The Invisible Heart-Care and the Global Economy - Nancy Folbre
    • Feminist Political Ecology Gender and Environment Series Editorial Committee (GESEC)
    • Women and Microcredit: A Critical Introduction - Nalini Visvanathan and Karla Yoder
    • Negotiating Multiple Patriarchies: Women and Microfinance in South India - Kalpana Karunakaran
    • Gender as a Social Determinant of Health: Evidence, Policies, and Innovations - Gita Sen and Piroska Ostlin
    • Peace-Building And Reconstruction With Women: Refelctions On Afghanistan, Iraq, And Palestine - Valentine M. Moghadam
    • Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses - Chandra Talpade Mohanty
    • Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others - Lila Abu-Lughod
    • The 'Gender Lens': A Racial Blinder? - Sarah C. White
    • Development's Encounter with Sexuality: Essentialism and Beyond - Sonia Correa and Susie Jolly
    • From Missionaries to Microcredit? 'Race', Gender and Agency in Neoliberal Development - Kalpana Wilson
  • Part II
    • Introduction - Lynn Duggan
    • Accounting For Women's Work: The Progress Of Two Decades - Lourdes Benería
    • 'In The Eyes Of A Child, A Father Is Everything': Changing Constructions Of Fatherhood In Urban Botswana? - Kavita Datta
    • Daughters, Decisions And Domination: An Empirical And Conceptual Critique Of Household Strategies - Diana L. Wolf
    • Subordination And Sexual Control: A Comparative View Of The Control Of Women - Gita Sen
    • Discarded Daughters: The Patriarchal Grip, Dowry Deaths, Sex Ratio Imbalances & Foeticide In India - Aysan Sev'er
    • The 'Feminisation Of Poverty' And The 'Feminisation' Of Anti-Poverty Programmes: Room For Revision? - Sylvia Chant
  • Part III: Introduction - Laurie Nisonoff with Lynn Duggan and Nan Wiegersma
    • The Subordination Of Women And The Internationalization Of Factory Production - Diane Elson and Ruth Pearson
    • Maquiladoras: The View From The Inside - María Patricia Fernández-Kelly
    • Global Woman - Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild
    • Slavery And Gender: Women's Double Exploitation - Beth Herzfeld
    • Globalization And The Increase In Transnational Care Work: The Flip Side - Jean L. Pyle
    • The Korean Economic Crisis And Working Women - Haejin Kim And Paula B. Voos
  • Part IV
    • Introduction - Nan Wiegersma
    • International Financial Architecture: A view from the kitchen - Diane Elson
    • 'One Step Forward- Two Steps Backward' From Labor Market Exclusion to Inclusion: a gender perspective on effects of the economic crisis in Turkey - Gülay Toksöz
    • Gender, Climate Change and Human Security: Lessons from Senegal - The Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
    • The Population Bomb is Back - with a Global Warming Twist - Betsy Hartmann and Elizabeth Barajas-Román
    • Caring for People with HIV: State Policies and their Dependence on Women's Unpaid Work - Anesu Makina
    • The Right to Have Rights: Resisting Fundamentalist Orders - Deepa Shankaran
    • African Women's Movements Negotiating Peace - Ali Mari Tripp, Isabel Casimiro, Joy Kwesiga and Alice Mungwa
    • 'I am Somebody!': Brazil's Social Movements Educate for Gender Equality and Economic Sustainability - Ruth Needleman
    • Capitalism and Socialism, Some Feminist Questions - Lourdes Benería
  • Part V: Introduction - Nalini Visvanathan
  • The Global Women's Movement: An Introduction - Peggy Antrobus
  • 'Under Western Eyes' Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles - Chandra Talpade Mohanty
  • Challenges in Transnational Feminist Mobilization - Aili Mari Tripp
  • The International Women's Commission of La Vía Campesina - Annette Aurélie Desmarais
  • Birthing and Growing the African Feminist Forum - Ayesha M. Imam
  • Women's Community Organizing in Quito: The Paradoxes of Survival and Struggle - Amy Lind
  • Feminist-Nation Building in Afghanistan: An examination of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan's (RAWA) - Jennifer L. Fluri
  • Struggle, Perseverance, And Organization In Sri Lanka's Export Processing Zones - Samanthi Gunawardana

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