New Possibilities? Shifts in Post-Development Theory and Practice



When post-development first emerged as an outraged collection of critiques in the early 1990s theorists called for fundamental changes or the abandonment of development, declaring it had failed in its own limited terms and had instead lead to the destruction of people, places and spaces. Post-development drew from post-structural ideas to destabilise the taken-for-granted truths, knowledges and languages of development to highlight the faulted cultural assumptions and violences inherent within development industries. Not surprisingly post-development attracted a good deal of critique which has tempered its ferocity and contributed to a more constructive approach, albeit in its infancy, intent on exploring the practical applications of this body of theory. This article overviews the travails of post-development from its early angry incarnations to its current experimental and optimistic mood. I argue that although post-development insights are infusing broader development approaches its future as a coherent body of work will be determined by its ability to re-imagine agency and place and create new networks and spaces of opportunity for people and communities. For this to occur post-development research must be couched in the languages of hope and possibility.