Front and back cover caption, volume 29 issue 2

Front cover

Fracking and anthropology

Detail of a coal seam gas field in southeast Queensland, Australia. Well pads, interspersed approximately every 700 metres, are connected by tracks. The environmental impact of unconventional gas extraction is clearly visible in this image, which shows the typical plurality of connected and potentially hydraulically fractured wells in coal seam gas fields. Supported by visions of energy self-sufficiency and economic development, global unconventional gas production has increased significantly in the last few years to meet our insatiable demand for energy. However, the rapid incursion of unconventional gas fields into rural agricultural areas and human settlements has given rise to heated discussion and protests, not only in Australia but worldwide due to concerns about the perceived environmental impacts, risks to human health, and the industrialization of landscapes. In this issue, Kim de Rijke provides a preliminary overview of what anthropologists might focus on in the study of ‘fracking’.

Back cover

Writing development

A pile of assorted development documents from international organizations active in Georgia.

Development writing is a major activity not only among aid professionals, but also among experts within universities, human rights NGOs or think-tanks. Some NGOs are financed by Western donors to report on issues such as democratic performance, corruption, domestic violence, conflict management and environmental protection.

The material they produce need not have any direct link to particular project interventions, but is nevertheless legitimized through and marked by normative frameworks to facilitate such interventions.

The bulk of these texts are circulated within the development community, but in some cases organizations might keep them unpublished as a knowledge-base to capitalize on.

The August 2008 war with Russia brought a number of new aid actors to Georgia and subsequently a massive production of texts covering everything from the causes of the war to the fall-out, and practicalities concerning, for example, the rehabilitation and resettlement of refugees.

Some of the documents that are being produced within development are based on empirical research and could almost pass as formal academic publications. But in general, development writing represents a separate genre with specific rules of engagement for specific audiences. The new anthropology of development is interested in knowledge production going on within the world of international aid which, among other things, can be accessed through texts such as these. In this issue Beppe Karlsson looks at the characteristics of writing in this genre.