Development cooperation in the face of postcolonial studies

An analysis of the social enterprise GlobalMatch

Bachelor Thesis, 2018

89 Pages, Grade: 1,2


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Develop-mental turn within political science and human geography
2.1 From growth theory to postdevelopment critics
2.2 What is development cooperation?
2.3 Postcolonial studies and their influences on »development«.
2.3.1 Othering and dichotomization, a tool for colonial suppression
2.3.2 The linearity of »development« - universalization of a “western” norm
2.3.3 A neo-colonial praxis - western interests and manifestation of dependency
2.3.4 The problem of representation - “speaking for” instead of “speaking with”

3 Methodology
3.1 Auto-ethnography
3.1.1 What auto-ethnography is and how it is applied
3.1.2 The GlobalMatch concept and its interrelation with the researchers’ self.
3.1.3 Critical considerations on auto-ethnography and flaws to avoid
3.2 Conversations open interview
3.3 Discourse analysis
3.4 Literature analysis

4 The GlobalMatch concept in the face of postcolonial critics.
4.1 Let´s overcome the ‘us’ and ‘them’ dichotomy!
4.1.1 Target group - Demarcation of the global North and South?
4.1.2 Time, punctuality, reliability - who sets the rules?
4.1.3 Dropouts - They only ask me for money.
4.2 Countering the western »development« norm?
4.2.1 Project collaboration - Role, self-image and perception of the participants?
4.2.2 Accept it, there will never be equal footing - the role of infrastructure.
4.3 What a nice idea with no effect! - Go for the system

5 Conclusion

References Appendix

1 Introduction

Eye level, help to self-help, partnership - these are words constantly heard in the context of »development cooperation«1. However, the notion »development« can be criticized for being a continuation of colonial thought patterns; a bare reproduction of western2 interests. Still, most western aid organizations claim as it were self-evident, that they practice a »development partnership« on equal footing with the global South. At first glance, it might seem obvious, that a relationship where there is a ‘donor’ and a ‘receiver’ can never be at eye level, because the donor has the power to decide when, how much, how long and for what (s)he wants to contribute. This directly implies a dependency, where the donor can set conditions which the receiver has to comply with. It is surprising, that even though the vast majority of western agents in this field of research and practice are very much aware of the diverse criticisms of their activities, they often do not realize that the relationship between the global North and South is constituted as a constellation of antagonisms, which were born in colonial times and frame the idea of »development cooperation« until today (glokal e. V. n.y. The Fairy Tale of Equality). Colonial narratives of uncivilized versus civilized, traditional versus modern shape both our understanding and the order of the world. Thus, »development cooperation« is discerned through the glasses of postcolonial scholarship as a continuity to colonialism. Mostly overlooking this impressive compromise of postcolonialism, western development scholarship and practice defend their mission by arguing that injustices are happening in the global South, such as malnutrition or death due to diseases, which might not be too difficult to solve with the adequate transfer of knowledge and finances from the global North. An enlightening interpretation of the development project and its postcolonial criticisms has been provided by Christine Sylvester’s essay Disparate tales of the » Third World « .

One of her quotes inspired the founding process of the social venture GlobalMatch, which this dissertation will analyse: “Development studies does not tend to listen to subalterns and postcolonial studies does not tend to concern itself with whether the subaltern is eating” (Sylvester 1999: 703). This message illustrates the opposition of the two schools of thought, which the organization aims to dissolve. The purpose of GlobalMatch, is realized in particular by establishing a one-to-one online connection, so-called “matching”, between (young) people from the global South and North based on their specific interests, fields of study and/or project ideas. The initial motivation of GlobalMatch was, to take advantage of the digital media, which opened a new range of possibilities of bridging »cultures«3 and people. The meaning behind the so-called tandem-partnerships is to make possible an ‘encounter at eye level’ with mutual learning possibilities for people from the global South and North and to further joint engagement to tackle social problems on both sides of the North/South divide. Thus, it was presumed to make possible to tackle social problems, while simultaneously postcolonial criticism is addressed. Currently, GlobalMatch understands itself as an experiment of how to integrate ideas from postcolonial research into mainstream development practices. This dissertation has the purpose to look critically at the mission and experiences of GlobalMatch, guided by the question: Can unequal global power relations be overcome by joint project work of people from the global North and South? Thus, the purpose of this dissertation is to reflect if and how the idea of GlobalMatch dissolves or perpetuates postcolonial relations of power.

Instead of following a clear-cut structure with each chapter seeking to contribute to answering a certain question, it is aimed to create an overall composition of what postcolonial theories tell us about »development cooperation«. As this dissertation, in succession of Sylvestre, aims at connecting the dots between postcolonial scholarship and »development studies«, it is important to provide the reader at least with a broad overview of the underlying historical and current components of the »development« field as well as its confusing shift between academic paradigms. Thus, to start off, a brief overview of the geographic »development« research and the »development« project (excluding the relevance of new donors impersonalized trough South-South cooperation) will be provided.

„development studies has spent its intellectual capital in toing and froing between top-down and bottom-up creeds of develop mentalism, all of which are too steeped in western bureaucratic authority to generate substantially new ideas. There is one group of development thinkers that has taken alternative critique farther, and these are advocates of postdevelopment. Escobar asks us to imagine a future era in which there is no regime of development in the lead. To do so requires that we take a step back in the process to ‘imagine moving away from conventional western modes of knowing in general in order to make room for other types of knowledge and experience’“ (Sylvester 1999, after Escobar)

In order to put across its complexity and diverse approaches, the theoretical treatise will be completed with an overview of the most relevant postcolonial theories. In the analysis, in addition to the already summarized literature in the theory section, reference will be made to younger, more practical critical analyses of »development« undertakings such as North-South civil society partnerships or one-sided volunteering and exchange programs such as weltwärts4. The comparison to those analyses is important as the idea of GlobalMatch is a figment where no noted case of comparison exists. Eventually, the analysis pays particular attention to the question of how postcolonial power structures come into play on a discursive level, within the one-to-one encounters. The analytical- experienced part of this dissertation builds on problems, noticed by the GlobalMatch team, which are: division into global North and South of the participants, punctuality, lack of infrastructure and the roles that participants fill throughout the partnership.

Using auto-ethnography as the major methodology of research, it should be stated, that this dissertation is written by a White5, member of the majority society in the global North. Therefore, it does not claim any entitlement for representing - in the sense of “speaking for” and “speaking about”, Spivak (1988) - worldviews from the global South. Moreover, the researcher is not exempt from criticisms on the White self-image. Instead, it is acknowledged that its whiteness contributed to the researcher’s personal development, the purpose of its actions and perhaps also to the development of

GlobalMatch (which will be further analysed in section 3). Furthermore, this dissertation does not claim to illuminate GlobalMatch's processes holistically. Rather, the focus has been put on some problem areas, while other aspects, such as the team culture or other power imbalances such as age, class, or gender have been excluded. As on the other hand, this dissertation attempts to give a comprehensible overview of the GlobalMatch project, unfortunately, it is neither possible to analyse the chosen problem areas down to the smallest details.

Nevertheless hoping, that this dissertation might pave the way to the recognition of the postdevelopment mission as a field of innovation instead of a hackneyed theory, we start off the experiment.

2 Develop-mental turn within political science and human geography

2.1 From growth theory to postdevelopment critics

Both the roots of development politics and human geography date back to colonial times. The founding fathers of geography, Alexander v. Humboldt and Friedrich Ratzel aimed at exploring »newly discovered« countries and its populations, which can be seen as a contribution towards legitimizing colonial and imperial geopolitics. Since then human geography has been trying to emancipate and find its legitimation and profile in today’s society and science.

As distant countries always were a subject of interest for human geographers, former colonies came to be analysed under the umbrella of Geography of developing countries. However, due to the scientific project of Jürgen Blenck (1979), this spatial driven approach of analysing »developing countries« quickly shifted towards putting the variable development in different spaces as a focus of research. Even though objects of studies are multi-dimensional and cover areas of for example political conflicts, social and ecological vulnerability and power relations, the core element of geographic development research is the focus on »development«, both as an object and as a research goal. This is exemplified in the words of Scholz, according to whom Development Geography “is ultimately supported by the idea that the indescribable, quantitatively and spatially even ever-widening misery of the South should be diminished” (Scholz 2004: 231). In order to achieve this research goal, a special interest was given to the question of how »development/ under development« can be explained. This led to two competing »development theories«, also known as the big theories, the modernization theory (Behrends 1968), and the dependency theory (especially Senghaas 1974).

Through the glasses of modernization theory, »underdevelopment« is interpreted as the social, economic and cultural backwardness of the »developing countries«. The »lack of development« is assumed an endogenous problem, which is due to traditional patterns of behaviour and structures, which preventing western-style economic development and therefore lead to poverty and misery. The proposed solution is a quick catching up with the economic and technical support from »developed countries«.

The dependency theory on the other hand, argues that not internal factors but external structures, such as colonialism and imperialism and its continuing dependencies have led to a deformation of the social, economic and spatial structures of »developing countries« (Lossau 2012).

Nevertheless, both theories are assessed as limited in their explanatory as well as advisory function (Menzel 1991), that is why Development Geography began to focus on smallerscale studies in the everyday-worldly action space of »development actors« (such as the study of small retailers in southern India (Bohle 1986a), also paying attention to intertwined global-regional-local action levels (Evers 1987b).

Recently, ideas from postcolonial studies, devoted to the power of the social construction, have been influencing Development Geography, to the extent that the entire concept of »development« gets questioned (Lossau 2012).

2.2 What is development cooperation?

Before being able to take up the questions of postdevelopment studies, a quick clarification of the concept of »development cooperation« is in order. Speaking from the perspective of political science, »development cooperation« is part of the field of »development politics« which is described as a hybrid of many political fields such as foreign, economic, finance or environmental politics (Kevenhörster et. al. 2009: 13). Here the research project can already be criticised as a thorough empirical representation of political processes, institutions and actors, which oftentimes uses patterns of argumentation in continuity with colonialism instead of critically questioning imbalanced relations of power (Ziai 2007).

»Development cooperation« is labelled as a young concept within international relations, which has developed just after the Second World War. The first European »development cooperation« dates back to the birth of the European Union and the end of colonial time and is clearly connected to European interests. Quoting Künhardt: “relations are still organized in the shadow of their colonial and postcolonial beginnings. With the establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, a formalized association was established between the emerging European common market and the overseas territories and colonies of its member states (...) The Treaties of Rome. (..) laid the ground for the association of the EEC with the overseas territories of its member states, establishing the first European Development Fund (guaranteeing $581 million for the period 1959-1964 in support of investment in the overseas territories), aimed at supporting the process of market development in the overseas territories, and facilitating access of African products into the emerging European Economic Community.” (Kühnhardt 2016: 9).

Concerning Stefan Klingebiel (department head of the German development institute), “development cooperation is provided by different donors” (2013: 1, own translation) and has the general aim of supporting countries in their efforts to achieve social and economic progress (2013: 5). He further states, that donor countries, agreed on certain rules for the practice of development cooperation.6 Throughout the years, different international instruments for governing »development cooperation« were formed, such as the Millennium Development Goals or the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Not only international organizations conduct development measures but also the civil society as well as states, which present themselves as donors on a bi- or multinational level. Klingebiel further explains, that the goals and motives of »development cooperation« have shifted throughout the years: “Next to the short- and long-term goals of self-interests (economic, foreign policy and other interest) the donor countries usually have a genuine interest to support the countries development processes.” (Klingebiel: 1, own translation)

Building on the already described paradigm of modernization theory, in the 1960s neoliberalism, emerged as the new credo of development thinking. Its mission was not driven by ideals but was material, namely “creating for the first time in history a truly unified global capitalist economy and one regulated, if at all, only by institutions reflecting the interests of transnational capital.” (Sylvestre 1999) Claiming that less restricted market mechanisms would deliver better development than governments, loans were given to »Third World« states, in order to work the market successfully. However, as Sylvestre (1999) puts it, “these would never do the trick unless already delinquent states made adjustments that would align their economies with those of the West once and for all. Thus, emerged the famous conditionality’s that became required for new commercial, World Bank and International Monetary Fund loans.” (Sylvestre 1999) Plenty of research papers (e. g. Wolf 2014) have ever since shown how the public-sector reforms, economic and structural adjustments of the 1980s negatively impacted and still impact the self-governability and social marginalization of so-called »Third World« countries.

As an alternative to the neoliberal paradigm, which failed to deliver »development« to the »Third World states citizens«, an alternative branch, represented by nongovernmental organizations (NGOS) emerged, calling itself ‘poverty-orientated’. The growing importance ‘poverty-oriented’ actors is reflected by their rechannelled budgets which increased enormously, even exceeding the total annual disbursements through the IMF and the World Bank (Sylvestre 1999).

To this civil society lead branch of »development cooperation« will be drawn mainly the comparison to in the following chapters. Structures that support Northern NGOs, which then partner with NGOs in the South, are especially prominent on the German »development policy« agendas. The federal ministry of economic cooperation and »development« gives a few reasons for doing so:

“Because of their own independence and experience, civil society actors can generally support the development and support of non-governmental structures more credibly and sustainably than state actors. (…) The close proximity of many civil society actors and their direct contacts with local partner organizations enable them to effectively reach poor and disadvantaged population groups. (…) They aim to strengthen the initiative and self-help of the partners.” (BMZ 2014: 9-10, own translation)

Looking again at Klingebiels phraseology “development cooperation is provided by different donors”, a critical eye might already notice that ‘providing cooperation’ is a contradicting narrative. The practice of »development cooperation« is criticized by postcolonial minds, which the next section will be devoted to. Voices of the target regions are not listened to and thus »development« approaches can be seen as a continuation of colonial relations of power and a reproduction of western interests or at least of a western understanding of the world. To conclude this section, by referring to Sylvestre once again; just as in colonial times it could be argued that railways or schools, which were constructed are not necessarily bad, it “is not to say that development never works: some countries have enjoyed dramatic increases in life expectancy, literacy and GNP per capital under flawed development regimes: Korea and the Philippines come to mind. Moreover, development is still a field whose money and agendas influence the world. That it gives itself few channels through which to generate and deliver the types of help or critiques thereof that many local people may need and want is its great blind spot.” (Sylvestre 1999)

2.3 Postcolonial studies and their influences on »development«.

Since the beginning of this century, ideas from postcolonial studies, which emerged as an academic discipline in the latter half of the 20th century (Carlsnaes, 2002) have been influencing the way social sciences depict »development«7. The core argument of postcolonial studies is that thought patterns and structures of the colonial period continue to work both in formerly colonized states and colonizing states (Ziai 2010: 402; after Conrad/Randeria 2002; Castro/Dhawan 2005; Franzki/Aikins, 2010). Thus, postcolonial studies try to reconstruct complex patterns of power and resistance by bringing together metropolis and colony, colonizer and colonized in a common analytical field (Kerner 2012: 41). Further, it can be described as “a set of discursive practices (...) that resist colonialism, colonial ideologies and their legacy.” (Castro Varela/Dhawan 2015: 17).

Postcolonial studies are mostly a spin-off of the post-structural school of thought, which had its origin in philology. Contesting the perception that language is able to depict reality easily, the Swiss linguist Saussure argued that language is a productive system of signs that constructs meaning by reproducing relations of differences. Due to the frequent linkage of certain elements (=discourse), social reality gets reproduced. As some discourses emerged as hegemonic and others get marginalized, certain truths and ultimately certain social realities are established and others have done away with (Glasze 2011: 660). According to Foucault, power relations are anchored in the very way the world is ordered and imagined (Foucault 1980). This is because practices of naming are not innocent, but produce allowable ways of thinking and being in the world. When categorizing, ordering or naming and constituting certain subject positions as natural, power is exercised, thereby producing reality (Foucault in Rainbow 1991). In this way, power is constituted by accepted categorizations and forms of knowledge.

Extending the above Foucauldian insights to colonial and postcolonial situations, it has been argued that the power of the West lies mainly in its ability to shape discourse; or to define, name, represent and theorize (e.g. Escobar 1995). Many of the assumptions, identities and world constructs that are considered »objectively true« in everyday life in western societies are often specific, Eurocentric social realities. In addition, there are other social concepts of reality that are suppressed and excluded. Coming back to the term »development«, postcolonial studies analyse how the object of investigation is constructed by means of discourses on »development« or »underdevelopment«, thus only creating »underdevelopment«. (Escobar 1995)

Building on the powerful assumption on discourse, different postcolonial theories evolved. Certainly, it is not easy to get a holistic and structured overview over the dynamic field of postcolonial debates. Since Robert Young’s publication White Mythologies (Young 1990), Edward Said, Homi Bhabha and Gaiatri Spivak are recognized as the founders and most quoted postcolonial theorists (Kerner 2012: 18). Considering their insights and those of a few other prominent scholars, the following four main aspects of postcolonial critics on »development« can be outlined.8

2.3.1 Othering and dichotomization, a tool for colonial suppression

In his book Orientalism (1985), Edward Said showed how colonialism operated through a discursive regime of knowledge. Said argues that the West acquired its own identity in an act of demarcation from non-western »cultures«, which it constructed as ‘Orient’, ‘East’ or ‚Other’. Rendering places beyond the boundaries of Europe ‘knowable’ in this way made them governable and allowed the colonial powers to exercise control over them (Said 1985). Thus, a dichotomous world (the west and the rest), which was already described by Franz Fanon (1961), who is famous for his observations of colonialism and its legacies, was manifested: „During the insurrectional stage every colonist reasons on the basis of simple arithmetic (…) the principle ‘It´s them or us’ (…) is precisely the organization of a Manicheans9 world, of a compartmentalized world.“ (Fanon 1961: 43)

Moreover, postcolonial scholarship explains, that in the period of the enlightenment, when Europe fought for freedom and equality, there was the need to justify the oppression, enslavement, murder and rape of colonized people. By objectifying and classifying them as animals, which had to be dominated and educated their tutelage was legitimized (Bhabha 2002). Moreover, it is said that Europeans have projected onto people who were considered non-European as everything that they forbid themselves to be. Thus, the ‚Other‘ was not only positioned as bestial, lazy and devious but also stigmatized with supposedly positive characteristics such as exotic, erotic and emotional (Mannoni 1990). This colonial racism - the idea that Europeans have the right and even the duty to improve other people and societies - continues to the present. Moreover, the dichotomous worldview, with all its stereotypes about the ‘Other‘ as a ‘single group” is repeatedly reproduced in western discourses and media (glokal e. V. 2016: 36).

Postcolonial scholars, above all, criticize that nowadays western actors seem to have forgotten the violent act of appropriation of colonialism; that they ignore it when talking about »development«. Fanon, argues that actual decolonization requires the overcoming of colonial differentiations, the complete destruction of the colonial Manichaeism - a “program of absolute upheaval” including the “creation of new humans“. (Fanon 1961: 29).

2.3.2 The linearity of »development« - universalization of a “western” norm

Nowadays, colonial discourses are still relevant insofar, as representations of the North as “modern and progressive” and the South as “stagnating and backward” have found an entry in and justify the global »development« project (Escobar, 1995). Thus, a linearity of »development«, normed by western standards gets constructed.

The political scientist Karsten Schulz explains, that all countries are in a permanent state of »development«. The direction this »development« should take though is negotiated within the framework of social definition processes (Schulz 2013: 134). A crucial problem within „development cooperation“ is that what is defined as »development« is not negotiated by the societies of the global South but predefined by the global North and executed by people from the global North, as the supposed »development experts« (Kontzi 2015: 85). Develop-mentalism, which is the term employed here to signify the “mode of being and set of discourses, practices and institutions that accompany »development« as technical, political, ethical and intellectual project” (Madhok 2014: 2, after Kapoor 2018), is engaged in what Spivak refers to as worlding by setting apart the global North from the global South temporally as well as spatially (Escobar 1995). »Development« hereby emerges as a game of catch-up, whereby the underdeveloped ‘Other’, who lives beyond the confines of the western world, is brought on the path towards modernization through technical intervention.

The western idea of »development« implies a norm, which should be aspired to. Hereby, the legitimacy of other societies’ values systems is neglected and it is supposed that current western ideas are to be adopted. The western consumption society, part of which is the need to incorporate the rest of the world into this system, is especially criticized. Also, the current UN »development policy« concept of sustainable »development« is criticised to promote western ideas. One example is goal eight, which seeks for “economic growth, full and productive employment” and thus promotes the “western economic concept” (Haas 2012: 47).

As during colonization, the global South was disconnected from the »development« of its own social and economic systems, many postcolonial writers demand to reflect the Eurocentric bias of world history (Reinhard 2016). Postcolonial theory is therefore also concerned with the “repression of pre-colonial knowledge” and the question of whether this pre-colonial knowledge can still be uncovered or is deleted forever (Castro Varela/ Dhawan 2015: 39).

Moreover, authors such as Majid Rahnema, Arturo Escobar and Ashis Nandy recommend to further appreciate alternative economic systems, such as local economic cycles and grass-roots democratic approaches (Neuberger 2012).

2.3.3 A neo-colonial praxis - western interests and manifestation of dependency

Since 1990 postdevelopment approaches radically refuse any kind of »development« intervention from the global North in the global South, criticizing it as, neo-colonial, a project that merely serves to justify interventions and exploitation (Ziai 2014). It is argued that the juxtaposition of »developed« and »underdeveloped« eventually replaced the colonial dichotomy of »civilized« and »uncivilized« (Kontzi 2015: 87). Under the guise of »development«, according to the authors, further attempts were made to “bring the economically poor rural population under the control of the financial capital of the global North” (Castro Varela/ Dhawan 2010: 318). In particular, it is criticised, that such understandings of »development« do not take into account the influence of colonialism on today's (neo-colonial) globalized world. The »development« narrative assumes that the countries of the global South are responsible for their socioeconomic situation (Haas 2012: 48), thereby disguising the responsibility of the global system and the fact that the global South has been forced into structurally unequal conditions, rendering countries of the global South “places of cheap production and exploitative depletion of resources” (Castro Varela/ Dhawan 2015: 85).

Scholars argue that values such as “democracy” or “environmental protection” are merely a cover for other ‘real’ interests of the global North (Schulz 2013: 134). Schulz speaks of an “indirect constraint” (Schulz 2013, p. 135) as states of the global South have to accept economic and political conditions, such as opening markets, in order to receive financial support. When it comes to »development« financing, Fanon considers a global redistribution of wealth necessary and demands reparations (massive help without too many conditions) (Fanon 1961: 85).

In sum, it is stated that the »development« narrative prevents the possibility of a truly systemic change, which could bring an end to the economic impoverishment of the global South. (glokal e. V. n. y.)

2.3.4 The problem of representation - “speaking for” instead of “speaking with”

Drawing on Foucault being the producer of knowledge about the global South enables the North to produce subject positions and subjectivities10, which serve the purpose of »development«. Through certain modes of representation, targeted »development« programs and interventions, people are directed towards going about their lives in a way that is compatible with »development«. »Development« thus has to be read as a form of governmentality, which are procedures and techniques implemented to govern the conduct of people in the aggregate (Foucault, 1991).

Gayatri Spivak, building on Said's thesis of Orientalism, deals with how, why and by whom knowledge is produced about ‘the Others’. In doing so, she concerns herself with the concept of subalternity. Subaltern subjects are groups of people who do not belong to a hegemonic class characterized by lack of autonomy as well as structural and economic exclusion (Castro Varela / Dhawan 2015: 186). In her famous essay Can the subaltern speak?, she (1988) showed how the silencing and confining of marginalized people - in particular, marginalized women in India, but in general most people from the global South - to passivity is achieved within a representational process. According to her, representation has two related, but different meanings: ‘Speaking for’, in the sense of representing someone politically and ‘Speaking about’ as in describing or portraying. When claiming to both speak for and speak about people from the South, they are effectively silenced, confined to the role of being acted upon (Spivak 1988). It is important to note, however, that silencing according to Spivak does not mean that they cannot speak, but rather that they are not given space to do so and even if they do speak, they are not heard (Spivak 1988).

Spivak's question in this regard is to what extent western intellectuals or other representatives as well as »development« workers, can really speak in the name of the ‘workers’ or the ‘poor’ in the global South (Haas 2012: 49). In her opinion, there is a danger that in the process of representation the voices of the real witnesses will be ignored if people from the global North are to represent the people of the global South (Haas 2012: 49).

The general criticism of »development cooperation« is that it often takes place without the effective participation of the affected people and is controlled by power elites such as »development experts« or officials who speak for or about them, but barely with them (Schulz 2013: 134). By not listening to the subaltern the us / them dichotomy in which We »help«, »develop«, »civilize« or »empower« maintains. Thus, »development cooperation« will not lead to a socio-economic shift but to a perpetuation of unequal relations of power (Haas 2012: 48).

Postcolonial scholarship aims at exposing misrepresentations and the production of subordinate subject positions within discourse in order to challenge and eventually transcend these power relations. The recovery of the voice of people from the South becomes central, meaning the importance to bring to attention alternative experiences and knowledges.

As GlobalMatch aims to address most of the above-summarized ideas, the chosen method described below shall help to explain the organization’s mission and experiences with those concepts.

3 Methodology

Postmodernists declare that the time of grand theories is over (Lyotard 1979), thus shifting attention towards local, temporal, and situational narratives. In this realm, research is strongly directed towards inductive procedures. Building on this paradigm of qualitative research the methodological framework of this dissertation represents an inductive approach on the basis of the empirical case study GlobalMatch. Instead of starting from theories and their verification, the analysis of the GlobalMatch approach requires ‘sensitized concepts’, into which theoretical knowledge is incorporated (Uwe Flick 2006: 12, own translation). Further, the composition of the methodology this dissertation uses has been inspired by methods that work at the intersection of auto- ethnography and discourse analysis. I choose a mixed research design, to complete my own experience as founder of GlobalMatch with open interviews (conversations I had with representatives of NGOs, the public and private sector), the participants E-mail traffic (inspired by discourse analysis) and a literature review. This helped me to embrace the situatedness of knowledge (Nightingale 2003). Understanding the process of assembling knowledge through this dissertation as situated, means that knowledges have been generated through the interaction of various individuals (researcher, participants, ‘experts’), instead of being discovered as an objectively approachable reality that is “lying out there” (Haraway 1988; Massey 2003).

Since this work is located within critical science and deals with postcolonial theories, power and the production of knowledge, it also wants to face these paradigms methodically. As already mentioned, postcolonial theories differ in their epistemological interests but have in common that they criticize the alleged ‘objectivity’ of knowledge, especially the knowledge produced from White majority positions (e.g. Franzki and Aikins 2010: 10). Donna Haraway illustrates the problematic of representation in her essay situated knowledge: the science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective, forcefully: „(...) the question of what we might mean by the curious and inescapable term ‘objectivity.’ We have used a lot of toxic ink and trees processed into paper decrying what they have meant and how it hurt us“ (Haraway 1988). Not claiming representative power, I11 acknowledge the partiality of my perspective rather than seeking to make rational, ‘objective’ knowledge claims.

Agreeing with Foley and Veleza „because all standpoints represent particular interests and positions in a hierarchical society (…), they are ‘ideological’ in the sense that they are partial” (Foley and Valenzuela 2005:218), I attribute importance to disclose my one positionality. The knowledge which will be produced comes from a White member of the German majority society. My perception of the world was framed especially throughout my studies of political science, sociology and human Geography in Bonn, Madrid and Porto Alegre (Brazil). Not only within my studies I have paid special attention to the topics of »development«, International Relations and postcolonial studies, but I also completed an internship at the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development , and have been engaged in various international student organizations. My set of values and motivations developed from my former desire to spend my time in order to serve others and to »help« less privileged regions towards a critical perception of the »development project«. My volunteering experience in Uganda 2011 and the confrontation with postcolonial criticism, my aspiration for social engagement and my recent socialization into the scene of social entrepreneurship made me found GlobalMatch. Even though I carefully try to reflect on my own positionality my neutrality is biased because my daily activities, my self-consciousness and social reputation are closely linked to GlobalMatch.

Drawing on Mountz et al. (2003) by having Latour’s (1987) metaphor of the “black box in mind”, I seek to use this methods chapter for addressing the flaws and challenges that I encountered during my research, aiming to make my research process accessible as “embodied, messy and complex” (Sharp 2005: 305) as it was.

3.1 Auto-ethnography

In order to get an in-depth understanding of the social venture GlobalMatch, its opportunities, as well as its problematics the overall framework of my research on the question “if global relations of power could be overcome by one-to-one matching and joint project work of people from the global North and South?”, is an auto-ethnography.

3.1.1 What auto-ethnography is and how it is applied

Auto-ethnographies are a relatively young qualitative approach in the postmodern spectrum of social sciences (Chang et al. 2016). What differentiates an auto-ethnography from an ethnography is the position of the researcher who becomes participant and researcher at once, thereby focusing on her/ his own life experiences during the process of gathering and analysing materials.

“Autoethnography seeks to preserve the virtues of immersion in and detailed description of a community being studied that characterizes traditional ethnography. It avoids the totalizing hubris of ethnography’s colonialist roots by including autobiographical reflections of the author in the analysis” (Rosiek 2002, in Miller 2008: 348-349).

Furthermore, auto-ethnographic approaches invite for diversity, and hence, “forms of auto-ethnography differ in how much emphasis is placed on the study of others, the researcher’s self and interaction with others, traditional analysis, the interview context, as well as on power relationships” (Ellis et al. 2017: 5). Miller, for example, uses elements of layered accounts (Ronai, 1995), such as retrospection, introspection, emotional experience, and to a lesser extent, abstract theorising. The way I adopted this method is inclined towards a more conventional understanding of ethnography (Chang 2008), because the focus of this dissertation lies not particularly on generating knowledge from the analysis of my own feelings, motivations or experiences. Regardless, auto- ethnography was considered useful, as GlobalMatch, by means of having founded it, can be interpreted as a personification of myself. Notwithstanding that my feelings are only considered marginally, with the choice of this method I would like to emphasize that I have internalized the vision, the team, and the participants to a degree which a mere “participatory observation” would not reflect. As auto-ethnography assumes, that “the knower and the known are intricately linked” (Tedlock, 2013, p. 358), my position within GlobalMatch and my experiences throughout its development can provide an understanding of how power relations evolve within online one-to-one project collaboration.

3.1.2 The GlobalMatch concept and its interrelation with the researchers’ self.

As GlobalMatch was created by myself and I am aiming constantly to improve its processes triggered by my experiences. Thus, “the researcher’s self and interaction with others” (Ellis et al. 2017: 5) contribute to a better understanding of the object under investigation. I understand myself as a social entrepreneur, the way that social entrepreneurship tries to come up with ways to “fix a broken system” (Papi 2017). “Social entrepreneurs are the essential corrective force. They are system-changing entrepreneurs.” (Ashoka founder Bill Drayton). Consequently, GlobalMatch shall not only be a non-profit, which offers a certain service to a certain target group but an experimental kit that aims at, figuring out new ways towards global equality. The core target of GlobalMatch is “to transform »development cooperation« towards global cooperation at eye level” by identifying ways of how the postcolonial dilemma that “development studies does not tend to listen to subalterns and postcolonial studies does not tend to concern itself with whether the subaltern is eating.” (Christine Sylvestre 1999: 703) could be overcome. Therefore, it could be said, that GlobalMatch is both the object of investigation in this case study as well as the scientific experiment which is constructed to gather knowledge about the bigger field of postcolonial relations of power.

“If our desire (is) to research social life, then we must embrace a research method that, to the best of its/our ability, acknowledges and accommodates mess and chaos, uncertainty and emotion” (Adams, 2015). Consequently, describing my motivation for founding GlobalMatch as well as the way it operates is important to understand my research process: After having realized my privileged position in terms of self-realization opportunities, social security and wealth in demarcation to a girl, who was selling crafts at the side of a busy road in South Africa in 2011 (both of us 14 years old at this time), I developed the strong urge to take on the fight against global inequalities as a life purpose (Jung 2017, Tedx). However, during my first years of studies, I was confronted with postcolonial critics on »development«, which confused and thrilled me at the same time. The quote form Silvestre, which is stated in the introduction, depicted perfectly my inner conflict. Even though I did not entirely comprehend postcolonialism, I had the intuition that it was right. But at the same time, I still had social circumstances in the global South, which I deem marginalized, in mind. This ‘dead-end’ let me come up with the idea of connecting one-to-one people from the global North and South, under the slogan “sharing opportunities”. Believing that human one-to-one connections based on same interests, will contribute towards liquidating the “we-them dichotomy”, described by Said, I developed the idea that GlobalMatch could be in line with some main postcolonial critics like listening to the subaltern (Spivak) and creating a relationship of solidarization instead of charity between people from the global North and South (glokal e.V. 2016: 12) while at the same time joint project work could lead to an improvement of social reality both in the global North and South. Even though I had the initiative of developing GlobalMatch, Odongo, a friend which I met in Uganda in 2011 supported me from the first moments onwards. Since then our team grew to 40 members from Germany, India, Peru, Spain, Tanzania and Uganda. Approximately 300 people applied to be matched and we connected 86 individuals to 43 tandems.

Without describing the complex process of designing and redesigning processes, GlobalMatch works as the following: We advertise the idea of being matched based on same interests both in the global North and South, potential participants apply through an online form (see Appendix 1), where they can depict issues about themselves like age, gender, country of birth/residence, study subject, hobbies, carrier plans, academic interests or project plans. After deciding who could match whom, the individuals get connected via E-mail with advice attached that guide them from questions helping to get to know each other up to hints of how to come up and develop a joint project. The GlobalMatch tandem partnership takes place online, via e-mail, messenger services and video chat. As we are constantly further developing the project, an automatized platform will be used soon, to scale the number of matches and to further support the tandems. However, this dissertation will focus on the simple connection, ignoring any kind of guiding material.

From starting with a few hours per week I have been spending 60 hours each week on GlobalMatch since May 2017. Auto-ethnography has proved to be a suitable method to make my wide range of experiences on the topic tangible. Since I have been constantly involved in the daily business of GlobalMatch, it has been very difficult for me to dismiss my role as the founder in favour of the role of the researcher.

3.1.3 Critical considerations on auto-ethnography and flaws to avoid

After having described my own position within GlobalMatch, I would like to start off the critical examination of the chosen method with Sarah Wells main ethical consideration: She explains that if the auto-ethnography is critiqued it might feel to the author as if her whole life is being critiqued or rejected (Wall 2008). And indeed, it was very difficult for me to divulge negative aspects of GlobalMatch, especially as I am used to presenting it in its innovative light as I want it to be.

Moreover, there are three major critiques on auto-ethnographic research, which I want to address. According to Maréchal (2010), the early criticism of autobiographical methods in anthropology was about “their validity on grounds of being unrepresentative and lacking objectivity”. As it will be described in the following sections I hope to handle this lack of objectivity adequately by building on a mixed method research design.

However, there remain still two flaws within auto-ethnographic methodology, which I probably will not manage to obviate in this research. At first, I focus on analyzing the dynamics within the tandems, this harbours certainly the danger of misunderstanding auto-ethnography in the way, that my research is actually intrinsically about the other. (Ellis, 2002). My inquiry, therefore, might not have the same value as an evocative form of auto-ethnography that gives the reader access to the emotional world of the author or insights about particular aspects of the culture I see myself as being a member of. The same misuse of auto-ethnography might occur, when I do not describe or analyse my own biographical experience but rather, apply auto-ethnography as a form of self-indulgence, by praising the programme I developed.

The second flaw points to the fact that “auto-ethnography (…) is about things that matter a great deal to the auto-ethnographer” (Delamont 2009: 57) and therefore implies that those things might not be the most useful or interesting for the research. As I am the one who determines which content, to include and not to include it is up to me to choose “valuable” data. For example, the ‘GlobalMatch problem areas’ I have chosen, were the ones I deemed fascinating. Also, the tandems which I approach where probably the ones I considered interesting to have a closer look at their conversation traffic. Admittedly, this critique applies to all kind of researchers, as its always the researcher who decides where to look.

Bearing those flaws in mind, I still consider auto-ethnography as the most fitting methodology, for the to be analyzed field of continuing colonial relations of power in current North-South cooperation’s. Especially because of the colonial connotation of ethnography, one could ask, isn’t it more self-indulgent to study other people than studying yourself?

“(…) there was an increasing need to resist colonialist, sterile research impulses of authoritatively entering a culture, exploiting cultural members, and then recklessly leaving to write about the culture for monetary and/or professional gain, while disregarding relational ties to cultural members.” (Mykhalovskiy, 1996)

3.2 Conversations open interview

As “auto-ethnography is a research method that: (…) acknowledges and values a researcher's relationships with others (...) shows ‘people in the process of figuring out what to do, how to live, and the meaning of their struggles’” (Adams 2015), I put special attention to “social and political” (Ellis 2004) encounters within my role as founder of GlobalMatch.

If I had to classify these conversations into one of the qualitative types of interviews, they could be compared with the problem-centred interview. Since my interest as a representative of GlobalMatch was evermore either to “sense the meaning” (Kruse 2006) in order to figure out possibilities of cooperation or directly asking questions with the interest to find ways to improve GlobalMatch. Thus, I usually used my own theoretical knowledge and confronted the interviewee in the conversation (Kruse 2006).


1 In this work, quotes are marked in double quotation marks, while concepts, that it wants to distance from are marked with double pointed quotes

2 In this dissertation it is preferred to use a lowercase w to de-emphasize the unity of the West and because capitalization of w would further privilege the West in its demarcation to the rest.

3 This dissertation takes distances from the concept of »culture«, in its essentialist meaning, because it is a concept of order and exclusion, which takes on the position formerly held by the concept of »race«. Especially Huntington’s interpretation of the notion in clash of civilizations harbours hostility and perpetuates a „west-rest“ differentiation. Second, to bestow the uncivilized with »culture«, legitimized the colonial project and today’s »development« interventions.

4 Weltwärts is a volunteer program set up by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Since 2007, each year about 3000 Germans (between 18 and 28 years old) are financed by public funds, to do a voluntary service in the global South.

5 Black and White denote political and social constructions and are not to be understood as biological properties. They do not describe the skin color of people, but their position as discriminated or privileged people in a racist society. While Black refers to an emancipatory self-title, White is explicitly named to denote the dominant position, which usually remains unspoken. In order to emphasize the social construction of positions, Black and White are capitalized.

6 The Development Co-operation Directorate (DAC) as a branch of the OECD, made up of 23 »developed countries«/ most of the former colonial powers, the World Bank and the international monetary fund, is beside the UN the main »development actor«. Providing between 70 and 90% of »development money« it declares with the DAC-list which states are »developing countries« or which forms of cooperation can be declared as aid.

7 Postcolonial theory has been treated in the Anglo-Saxon area for some time and has only gained increasing attention in Germany for the last 10 years (Neuburger 2012)

8 The classification of the criteria was made by the author.

9 =„dualistic“ (Oxford Dictionary). It was a religious movement, which was majorly concerned about the struggle between good and evil/darkness. The electi could achieve and help to achieve salvation and lightness (Enceclopædia Iranica).

10 This processes of becoming subject of or to discourse is called subjectivization.

11 To emphasize this lack of objectivity, and further, it is also typical for auto-ethnographic research, I have decided to report in the method section from the first-person narrative.

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Development cooperation in the face of postcolonial studies
An analysis of the social enterprise GlobalMatch
University of Bonn
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development, north, south, globalmatch
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Katharina Jung (Author), 2018, Development cooperation in the face of postcolonial studies, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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