Free Anthropology And Development Term Paper Sample

Type of paper: Term Paper

Topic: Development, Community, Cattle, Cows, Project, Politics, Anthropology, People

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/19


Anthropology plays an important role in development, particularly the fulfilment of projects that mark progress in the community. One of the considerations when planning development is the need or concern of people in the local community. Developers do not simply make decisions based on plans for structuring or progress. Developers also consider the nature of societies and the prevailing culture in the community. Since Anthropology allows individuals to study culture as it is lived or experienced in society in the past and at present time, anthropological knowledge could inform development in the community.
Considering the foregoing arguments, the following discussion focuses on establishing the role of anthropology in development. The discussion covers two relevant texts – James Ferguson’s “The Anti-Politics Machine” and Arturo Escobar’s discussion about post-structuralism. The concepts in the readings will be used to relate and argue the importance of anthropological studies in framing and developing programs and projects for change and progress in local communities.

Ferguson’s Arguments in “The Anti-Politics Machine”

In “The Anti-Politics Machine”, author James Ferguson explores the flaws, weaknesses, and shortcomings of development projects over the years. Ferguson emphasizes that development programs rest on the skill and capability of development agencies. Nonetheless, most development agencies fail to fulfill their roles and responsibilities because of widespread oppression and government control particularly in developing nations. To prove this argument, Ferguson explored different theories including Michel Foucault’s thesis on social control. Foucault’s theory introduces the role of government or public agencies in creating and implementing development programs especially in marginalized communities.
Ferguson discussed several examples of development programs such as the Thaba-Tseka development project implemented in Lesotho. Ferguson argued that although these projects were well-meaning such that the individuals and agencies that conceived it sought to bring about economic change in the community, the project still failed because of the shortcomings of implementing agencies. One of the reasons that contributed to this is because public or implementing agencies are often external such that they do not belong to the local economy. Many implementing agencies from public institutions to non-government organizations (NGOs) are based in other countries, particularly developed Western countries. The problem with this set-up is that implementing agencies are not aware of the situation in communities. As a result, they are unable to identify the community’s needs and situations. Furthermore, they do not take the time to determine how communities would respond to outside influence or interference.
Ferguson also pointed out that one of the reasons why development projects fail is because the governing or developing agencies have a faulty view and description of their target communities. Ferguson introduced the term ‘Less-developed Country’ (LDC) to define countries that with weak economies and inadequate infrastructure and resources. Ferguson also argued that it is important for public and implementing agencies to accurately define LDCs. Doing so would help these agencies determine how to appropriately approach local communities.
The Thaba-Tseka project in Lesotho, for instance, failed because implementing agencies failed to frame development projects based on the historical context of the community as well as the geographical features that affect the delivery and fulfillment of services. Lesotho’s main revenue was the country’s export o grains. Furthermore, Lesotho thrived as a labor capital, particularly for mines in South Africa. People’s livelihood depended on these two – farming of grains for export and mining in South Africa. Despite this information, implementing agencies ignored the capabilities of local communities to work in farming and mining. On the contrary, implementing agencies defined Lesotho, particularly the Thaba-Tseka community as aid-dependent. The issue herein is that the faulty definition of the local community led to the development of a program that failed to empower the local community. Instead of capitalizing on the capabilities of the local community to work as a means to spur or facilitate development, agencies decided that concentrating aid to these communities would be best. One of the reasons that contributed to this decision was the refusal of implementing agencies to deal with the government that still implemented apartheid. As a result, implementing agencies did not collaborate with government agencies and focused on providing aid instead of relying on government mechanisms to help people in the community gain more jobs.
Through the Thaba-Tseka project, implementing agencies provided the community with various resources to contribute to their livelihood. Part of the project was providing communities with livestock. Through the project, people in the local community were supposed to raise livestock or cattle and sell them at maturation. In doing so, the people would be able to gain revenue from selling cattle. Nonetheless, the project failed because most of the farmers refused to sell their cattle. Even if the pastures were overgrazed and the drought limited the food for cattle, people in the local community chose to take care of their cattle. According to Ferguson, the farmers did so because they saw cattle as an investment. If the farmers sold their cattle, the influx of cattle in the market would lower the price or cost, and would therefore limit their revenue from selling cattle. For this reason, the farmers chose to hold on to their cattle as a means to save money for their future or retirement. By taking care of the cattle, the farmers would have something to sell in the future.
Aside from helping the farmers increase their livelihood by raising cattle or livestock, the development and implementing agencies also sought to help the local community by introducing new markets and land privatization. Despite knowing that people in the local community thrived due to farming and mining, the implementing agencies still sought to introduce new markets to diversify the community’s livelihood. Land privatization, on the other hand, supported the community’s livestock or cattle raising. Through the privatization of land, people were able to take on new properties as grazing ground for their cattle. In addition, implementing agencies provided livestock or cattle that suited the conditions in the community. Many breeds of cattle were brought in Lesotho, particularly those breeds that could withstand drought and other harsh conditions. In this way, implementing agencies could ensure that cattle or livestock would survive for the local community.
Part of the Thaba-Tseka program was improving farming opportunities in Lesotho. Agencies sought to introduce cash crops to speed up farming and the returns in farming to the community. The problem, however, was that farmers needed to use chemicals to raise crops and provide for the local market. Despite this need, farmers in the community were unable to purchase chemicals needed for growing crops because they were expensive. Only a small amount were subsidized for the local population. Hence, despite the promise of cash crops I helping the farming community grow crops, the development project failed because the implementing agencies failed to effectively implement projects. Furthermore, implementing agencies failed to foresee problems or issues that may arise in the implementation of projects and determine how to prevent these problems or issues from emerging.
Despite the failure of several programs, however, Ferguson argued that these programs may still be considered as a success because they may be used as basis for the development of new programs that bear improvements compared to previous ones. Ferguson said public agencies that develop and implement programs may learn from failed projects to develop new ones that stray away from the factors or causes that led to the failure of former projects. According to Ferguson, implementing agencies could also improve the creation and implementation of projects not only determining the flaws of previous projects but also by identifying what former projects successfully accomplished. By determining both – the successes and failures of a development project – implementing agencies would be able to create effective programs that strayed away from the failures and shortcomings of past projects.
Effective project planning, according to Ferguson, necessitated the identification of both failures and successes in development projects. Ferguson discussed three points that could be used to determine the failure and successes of projects. According to Ferguson, it is important that implementing agencies determine the appropriate way of allocating resources. The allocation of resources must be based on the needs of the local community as well as people’s way of life. Spurring commerce or entrepreneurship in a local community necessitates the appropriate allocation of resources, particularly to those that really need it. In the Thaba-Tseka project, for instance, implementing agencies provide cash crops. Nonetheless, the project failed because the farmers had limited access to chemicals they need to grow their crops. The situation illustrates the needs for implementing agencies to determine specific needs in the community and allocate resources based on them and not based on perception about the community’s needs.
Aside from the appropriate allocation of resources, Ferguson also argued the importance of restructuring development to become integrated development. One of the issues at Thaba-Tseka, as formerly noted, is the presence of the oppressive government that still imposed social inequality based on race. This problem hindered the implementing agencies’ projects from progressing because the government set limitations in the way that they could reach and provide aid for communities. Development must be integrated such that implementing agencies develop programs to address multiple issues in the community. The Thaba-Tseka project only addressed livelihood needs in the community but it failed to do the same for other issues that affect outcomes such as social inequality and racial discrimination. Integrated development means that the projects address multiple concerns on different levels in order to ascertain progress and change.
Finally, Ferguson recommended the need to look at issues systemically. According to Ferguson, the Thaba-Tseka project did not view issues within the regional level. As formerly noted, apartheid affected communities in the area. Many people are reliant on mining labor for their livelihood as the government leaves them no choice but to do so. One of the goals of the Thaba-Tseka project was to empower local communities by offering these populations alternative livelihoods in the form of cattle or livestock raising and farming cash crops. The project was largely unsuccessful because the projects did not help local communities expand their livelihood. On the contrary, farming communities refused to sell their cattle and livestock. Furthermore, cash crops growing was met with inadequate subsidies of chemicals and other materials to help the farmers.

Arturo Escobar’s Discussions on Post-structuralism

Aside from Ferguson’s “The Anti-Politics Machine, Arturo Escobar’s discussions on post-structuralism may also be applied to understand the important role of anthropology in developing programs for change and progress. According to Escobar, post-structuralism should guide anthropological studies. According to Escobar, when studying the situations of local communities, anthropologists must apply post-structuralism and post-colonialist strategies. Furthermore, Escobar studied a concept that relates to the theme of this discussion – the anthropology of development.
Similarly, Escobar criticized development projects as Ferguson did. In one of the Escobar’s books “Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World”, the author argued that most development projects were designed to perpetuate colonialism and control local communities that have already suffered during the colonial period. Escobar also applied Michel Foucoult’s theory on discourse analysis to analyze the issue and argue that although development projects meant well, their unintended outcomes were undesirable because they define how communities are supposed to live. Essentially, communities become largely dependent on foreign aid and development projects, thereby, rendering them powerless against post-colonialist power and influence.
Escobar suggested that when studying communities, anthropologist should adopt or implement ethnographic methods. Ethnographic methods allowed anthropologists to challenge existing knowledge and constructs of culture and communities. According to Escobar, abiding by existing knowledge and information about communities limited the genuineness of information. Often, social movements dictated how scholars viewed communities. Consequently, this control also affects discourse about communities and development such that discussions are controlled by social movements instead of dictated by people living in their communities and their culture. Escobar used several examples in his works to highlight the importance of ethnographic studies. Escobar cited development programs that sought to address world hunger. According to Escobar, these programs often defeat their purpose because they ineffectively address hunger. Most programs aim to provide food for communities although the solution should be to empower communities so they would be able to develop a stable sources of food and resources. In the process, communities become dependent on aid because implementing agencies provide resources without taking into consideration communities’ capacity to work or rely on other more sustainable sources of food and resources.
Overall, Escobar suggested the importance of applying the deconstructive approach or philosophy when studying situations and issues affecting communities. Often, scientists and other experts leave out relevant information that could affect their understanding of local communities. When studying communities, for instance, a deconstructive approach not only means identifying their needs but also studying their way of life depending on culture, history, and social issues. If communities used to be under colonial rule, then anthropologists should take this into consideration when planning by determining how colonialism has influenced and continue to influence their culture and way of life. Anthropological research of communities must also be deconstructive such that anthropologists aim to compare developing nations to developed ones. Exploring this theme is important in determining the factors that contribute to the sustenance of growth and development in developing countries. Developing countries thrive due to industrialization and urbanization, as well as the development and provision of different services from healthcare to education. Considering the situation in developing countries, deconstruction necessitates a comparison of communities with that of others. In this way, scholars would be able to determine the factors inherent in developed nations that may be replicated or adopted in developing nations to increase chances of growth and progress.
The foregoing discussion illustrates the importance of anthropology in guiding development, particularly development projects in marginalized communities. Essentially, anthropology is concerned with the study of human societies or communities and cultures. Ferguson and Escobar’s arguments illustrate the importance of relying on anthropology to guide project development in marginalized communities. According to Ferguson, it is highly important that agencies seek to understand and define communities accurately not only based on their needs but also their skills and capabilities, as well as culture and way of life. In this way, development projects would be able to consider how people live in the development of programs and mechanisms to provide help and resources to the needy. In the same way, Escobar also echoed the importance of adopting anthropological studies such as ethnography and post-structuralism to understand communities. In this way, development projects do not fall under those that perpetuate colonialism by making communities dependent on foreign aid.
Ferguson’s arguments focus on the failure of development projects to define communities appropriately, particularly in identifying people’s most pressing needs. Ferguson, however, remain positive such that he argued the importance of using failed development projects to assess and develop upcoming ones. Ferguson also emphasized the importance of defining communities based on how they live and not on how anthropologists see or observe their way of life. Ferguson’s discussions were also extensive such that he proposed strategies to expand development programs through appropriate allocation of resources.
Escobar, on the other hand, focused on the appropriate methods that must be applied when studying communities. According to Escobar, it is highly important that anthropologists apply the ethnographic and deconstructive approach when studying communities. In this way, anthropologists would be able to see all the factors that affect culture and way of life in these communities. Furthermore, deconstructing situations allow anthropologists to view all the factors that affect communities. Escobar also raised the important of redefining development not from the perspective of implementing agencies or countries that provide aid or help, but from the perspective of communities that need them. Overall, Ferguson and Escobar both recommend the importance of designing development programs towards the goal of enacting progress and development. Some projects were problematic because they merely aimed to provide aid to needy communities. Escobar stressed that development programs must not be stuck in the past by aiming towards real progress instead of addressing needs that arose due to marginalization or colonialism. Band aid solutions are just that – temporary solutions that do not contribute to communities in the long run. Effective development programs are those that contribute to real change and progress through opportunities that empower communities and help them attain sustainability. On the contrary, most communities do not need aid but opportunities to improve their situation through livelihood and sustainability programs. Ferguson and Escobar’s discussion also highlight the importance of sustainability in developing development programs for local communities.


Escobar, A. (2001). Anthropology and development. Walden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
Ferguson, J. (1994). The Anti-Politics Machine: ‘Development’ and bureaucratic power in Lesotho. The Ecologist, 24(5), pp. 176-181.

Cite this page
Choose cite format:
  • APA
  • MLA
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver
  • Chicago
  • ASA
  • IEEE
  • AMA
WePapers. (2020, December, 19) Free Anthropology And Development Term Paper Sample. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from
"Free Anthropology And Development Term Paper Sample." WePapers, 19 Dec. 2020, Accessed 29 September 2022.
WePapers. 2020. Free Anthropology And Development Term Paper Sample., viewed September 29 2022, <>
WePapers. Free Anthropology And Development Term Paper Sample. [Internet]. December 2020. [Accessed September 29, 2022]. Available from:
"Free Anthropology And Development Term Paper Sample." WePapers, Dec 19, 2020. Accessed September 29, 2022.
WePapers. 2020. "Free Anthropology And Development Term Paper Sample." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved September 29, 2022. (
"Free Anthropology And Development Term Paper Sample," Free Essay Examples -, 19-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 29-Sep-2022].
Free Anthropology And Development Term Paper Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 19, 2020. Accessed September 29, 2022.

Share with friends using:

Related Premium Essays
Contact us
Chat now