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De-centring the "White Gaze" of Development

  • Open University Milton Keynes United Kingdom (map)

Keynote Speaker: ‘De-centring the “White Gaze” of Development’, Development Studies Association Annual Conference, Opening up Development (June 20, 2019), Milton Keynes, UK.


In its crudest form, ‘development’ has traditionally been about dissecting the political, socio-economic, and cultural processes of black, brown, and other non-white subjects in the so-called Global South and finding them ‘regressive’, particularly in comparison to the so-called ‘progressive’ Global North. However, in the midst of a twenty-first century, ‘de-colonial’ scholarly pivot, opening up development fundamentally demands turning the colonial, ‘white gaze’ on its head. In particular, contemporary social media movements challenging white supremacy such as #BlackLivesMatter have gained prominence while non-white development actors such as China have emerged as enticing alternatives. These phenomena have pried open development with both positive and negative results, intended and unintended consequences. My keynote seeks to put Critical Development Studies in fluid conversation with Critical Race Studies in an examination of how scholars, policymakers and practitioners have simultaneously succeeded and failed in subverting the ‘white gaze’ of development.

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