Development Research Conference 2018
This year’s DevRes conference took place over two days on 22 and 23 August 2018 in Gothenburg and was themed around ‘rethinking development’. Twenty years after the publication of a special issue devoted to this very question, similar concerns prevail: the prevalence of language, theory and methods rooted in Global North academic knowledge production, legacies of structural adjustment and failed projects, and aid flows that still represent global inequities of resource distribution. Adding to the need to ‘rethink’ development studies and practice are the intensifying risks of climate change (and a global apparatus responding to it in ways that obscure grounded realities), the appropriation of development discourse by far-right regimes, and the displacement of people in ways that have long looked more like de-development. Alissa Trotz’s keynote challenged the centrality of aid, arguing that migrants’ remittances have become retooled as aid alternative, serving the interests of a neoliberal governmental order. David Simon’s keynote suggested shifting from anti-development to post-development, requiring the search for alternatives as well as critique. These, he suggested, include pluriversal perspectives; local cosmologies, hybrid modernities and synchretic sensitivities in a world of contested, polarising politics of truth. Mistra colleagues working within the ‘Urban Food Security and Value Chain’ project met prior to the conference to discuss challenges of conceptualising food systems using comparative co-production methods, and presented diverse food systems perspectives in a panel session. Presentations included insights into aquaculture and other opportunities to overcoming food insecurity in Kisumu, the ‘normalisation’ of food poverty in Cape Town, transition pathways and the SAFE project. Closing two days of diverse sessions, a panel discussion included Swati Parashar’s diagnosis of violence threaded throughout development and, more optimistically, Henning Melber’s suggestion that we ditch ‘development’ and replace it with empathy, solidarity and respect: a task that begins with looking inwards. Charlie Spring left pondering the fact that, given the impossible sustainability of many westernised lifestyles, we also need to rethink ‘developed’.