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Keywords:

  • development management;
  • actor-network theory;
  • project implementation;
  • public sector reform;
  • Sri Lanka

SUMMARY

Development projects are central to international development, yet the actual practice of their implementation is under-researched. In particular, we know little about how practice affects project performance and about how politics is enacted within such projects. This paper investigates these knowledge gaps through analysis, using actor-network theory (ANT), of a donor-funded reform project in the Sri Lankan public sector. By analysing, using mobilisation, interaction and disintegration of the local and global actor-networks that typically surround such development projects, the paper explains the project's trajectory. These actions represent the practice of politics that must, in turn, be understood in relation to network actor power: not through a static conception of ‘capacitive power’ but through the dynamic enacted concept of ‘associative power’. The paper concludes by reflecting on the contribution and limitations of ANT's local/global networks component in analysing development projects, and in providing insights for development project practice. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.