Desire for Development
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In Desire for Development: Whiteness, Gender, and the Helping Imperative, Barbara Heron draws on poststructuralist notions of subjectivity, critical race and space theory, feminism, colonial and postcolonial studies, and travel writing to trace colonial continuities in the post-development recollections of white Canadian women who have worked in Africa. Following the narrative arc of the development worker story from the decision to go overseas, through the experiences abroad, the return home, and final reflections, the book interweaves theory with the words of the participants to bring theory to life and to generate new understandings of whiteness and development work.

Heron reveals how the desire for development is about the making of self in terms that are highly raced, classed, and gendered, and she exposes the moral core of this self and its seemingly paradoxical necessity to the Other. The construction of white female subjectivity is thereby revealed as contingent on notions of goodness and Othering, played out against, and constituted by, the backdrop of the NorthSouth binary, in which Canada’s national narrative situates us as the “good guys” of the world.



Publié par
Date de parution 04 décembre 2007
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781554580996
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0087€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Whiteness, Gender, and the Helping Imperative
Barbara Heron
This book has been published with the help of a grant from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, through the Aid to Scholarly Publications Programme, using funds provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program for our publishing activities.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Heron, Barbara, 1949-
Desire for development : whiteness, gender, and the helping imperative / Barbara Heron.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-55458-001-9
1. Women, White-Developing countries. 2. Women, White-Race identity. 3. Women in development-Developing countries. 4. Power (Social sciences). 5. Economic development-Social aspects. 6. Imperialism. I. Title.
HD82.H434 2007 305.48 9622 C2007-903510-8
Cover design by P.J. Woodland. Text design by Catharine Bonas-Taylor.
2007 Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

This book is printed on Ancient Forest Friendly paper (100% post-consumer recycled). Printed in Canada
Every reasonable effort has been made to acquire permission for copyright material used in this text, and to acknowledge all such indebtedness accurately. Any errors and omissions called to the publisher s attention will be corrected in future printings.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher or a licence from The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For an Access Copyright licence, visit or call toll free to 1-800-893-5777.
In memory of my parents
1. Challenging the Development Work(er) Narrative
Situating the Theoretical Framework
Critiquing Development
The Empirical Basis for the Book
Overview of the Book
2. Where Do Development Workers Really Come From?
Bourgeois Subject Formation: The Era of Empire
Colonial Continuities: Planetary Consciousness, Entitlement, and Obligation
Development Worker Motivations: Colonial Continuities in Play
Planetary Consciousness: The View from Here
Obligation: Making a Contribution
Entitlement: Making a Choice
Concluding Remarks
3. Development Is a Relational Experience
First Encounters
How Do We Relate to Them ?
Relations across Difference
Barriers We Negotiate
Non-Negotiable Barriers: We Generate; They Impose
Concluding Remarks
4. Negotiating Subject Positions, Constituting Selves
Considering Whiteness
Exploring the Positioning of Northern Development Workers
Gender Complexities
Claiming Subjectivity
Concluding Remarks
5. Participants Retrospectives: Complicating Desire
The Moral Basis of Bourgeois Subjectivity
What Do We Think of It Now?
No Misgivings
Doubt Deepens
The Centre Cannot Hold
How Can We Resist?
6. Summing Up, Drawing Conclusions
What Does All This Imply?
This book would not have been possible without the support of a number of people. Although it draws from my years as a development worker in Zambia, the book s beginning is really traceable to my encounter with Sherene Razack at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, where I did my doctoral studies. I am deeply indebted to Sherene, who became my thesis supervisor. Her critical thinking on race and subjectivity challenged me to conceptualize my part in the development enterprise in new and unsettling terms. Sherene s wisdom, courage, and brilliance continue to inspire me, and her friendship to warm me. Kari Dehli and George Dei, who were members of my thesis committee, have also been enormously important in the development of the original dissertation from which this manuscript has been created. Perhaps only I know how deep are the imprints of all three of these extraordinary scholars on the work, but I do know, and I thank them.
I have been sustained through revisions and the whole publishing process by fast friendships. Sheryl Nestel has been a pillar of strength, to whom I have turned often for advice and encouragement. I have also been buoyed by the confidence directed toward me by Donna Jeffery, Dawn Sutherland, Jane Ku, and Amina Jamal. Tina Martin, her husband Ted Vanderklugt, and their children Brendan and Kyla have made their home my home, and, as through the thesis years, they have supported me with their love. Norma Knuckle s friendship and understanding of development issues has kept me grounded as I worked on this project. Sydia Nduna and Jane Ferguson, based in Geneva and working in the international field, have given me fresh perspectives on international issues and support from afar. Lynn Ann Lauriault and Ann Sutherland, my friends from CUSO-Zambia days, have also kept me mindful of the importance of persevering with the book manuscript. At the School of Social Work, York University, where I work, close friends and colleagues Renita Wong, Amy Rossiter, Grant MacDonald, and Narda Razack have offered intellectual stimulation and shored up my determination to persevere.
My brother, Keith Heron, has evinced confidence in this undertaking all along, and I am more grateful for his support than he can possibly know. My parents would have loved to have seen the thesis become a book. The memory of them has nurtured me through this process.
Research grants have enabled me to do more work to ensure that the manuscript is current. A Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada internal York University grant supported me to carry out additional interviews with recently returned development workers in the spring of 2005, and two Atkinson research grants from York University helped me to ascertain changes in the development worker context. Mary Newberry provided needed assistance with the process of editing my thesis into a book. I especially want to express my appreciation to Jacqueline Larson, the former acquisitions editor at Wilfrid Laurier University Press, for her unflagging faith in my project. She has played a crucial role in bringing this book into the world. Lisa Quinn, who replaced Jacqueline, has also helped enormously.
Finally, I need to thank all the women who agreed to be interviewed by me. I could not have written this book without their generous sharing of their development worker experiences in Africa. I saw much of myself in them, and still do. Their words gave theory meaning for me, and became the very stuff of my understanding.
There is a 1989 Canadian film called The Midday Sun . It is based on incidents that occurred when a young, white Canadian woman went to live in an unnamed African country as a development worker in the 1970s. In the film, the Canadian woman s domestic employee, an African man, is wrongly charged with theft following a break-in at her home. Married, the father of three children, and the main income-earner in his family, he is sentenced to ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Soon after, and for reasons indirectly connected with the theft, the development worker is forced by local authorities to leave the country. On the eve of her departure, she reflects that she could never belong in their society, but neither is she any more at home in her own. In a post-screening interview, Lulu Keating, the director whose personal story the film narrates, stated that she had wanted to make a movie about the most profoundly life-changing experience a person can have. She went on to explain that it is the Canadian woman whose life was so profoundly changed.
Since my telling of this story provides only a brief pr cis, Keating s interpretation of her development work experiences may seem surprising in that she appears to entirely overlook the far more transformative, and devastating, impact of a Canadian woman s sojourn on the lives of an African man, his wife, and their children. It is noteworthy that Keating had held on to this perspective for several years through writing, fundraising for, and directing her film. Yet I would suggest that for many viewers watching as I did The Midday Sun on Canadian television one Saturday afternoon in the winter of 1995, the explanation Keating gave in the interview following the film made sense: what really mattered to the white Canadian audience was what happened to the Canadian woman. Further, I suspect that Keating s story would especially resonate with Canadian development workers. 1 I say this because I, too, was a development worker. For eleven years (from 1981 to 1992) I lived in Zambia, initially as a volunteer and then as the coordinator of a Canadian non-governmental organization s development program. I recognize the director s reading of this episode in the development worker s life and in her own; it calls to me personally while evoking recollections of similar reactions on the part of Canadians I knew over the years in southern Africa.
Why begin a book about Canadian women s desire to contribute to international development with an old film about something that happened over thirty years ago and with reminiscences from the 1980s and 1990s? The answer, in the first instance, is that the brief synopsis of Keating s film encompasses elements of a standard development worker narrative that continues to

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