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Rethinking Development Communication  

Bhavya Chitranshi and Anup Dhar

Here we, on the one hand, revisit the standard operating procedure in development strategies—“communication (technologies) for development”—and move instead to “development for facilitating communication” through exploring questions such as: Does communication facilitate development? Or does development facilitate communication? Which kind of communication can engender development? Which kind of development can ensure communication with the “margins”? We thus tighten and deepen the connection between the nature of development and the nature of communication; in the process we see communication for development and development for communication as mutually constitutive. We also invoke the question of praxis in three forms: (a) by exploring the connection between praxis and communication and seeing communication as not just a technique but as a question of praxis—where theories of communication and practices of communication are in a relationship, (b) by seeing developmental praxis as intimately tied to the question of communication, and (c) by letting praxis emerge as the “middle term” or the connecting link between development and communication. We deconstruct three discourses of development: the growth-centric discourse, those offering “developmental alternatives” (like human developmental perspectives), and those presenting “alternatives to development” (like postdevelopmentalist positions focused on “third world” or the “local,” etc.), to move to a fourth discourse that problematizes both modernism and capitalism, as it opens up the discourses of communication (modernist, dependency theory, participatory approach, etc.) for inquiry. We attempt to go beyond the modernist and capitalist understandings of development to introduce the logic-language-ethos of “world of the third” as against third world-ist imaginations. This helps us rethink the praxis of communication in creating, on the one hand, community- or social movements–driven developmental futures and, on the other, engendering post-Orientalist and postcapitalist forms of life in local or world of the third contexts. We also emphasize the need to reflect on the question of the “subject” (as also psychoanalytic conceptualizations of the “psyche”) and the need to learn to “work through” “groups” in order to usher in depth and nuance in the praxis of development communication.


Communication in International Development  

Srinivas Melkote and H. Leslie Steeves

The decades that immediately followed World War II witnessed the political independence of most of the so-called Third World from colonization and the birth of the United Nations, marking the formal beginning of development and directed social change to facilitate it. The role of communication in development (devcom) has evolved according to the overarching goals of the development programs and theories during each historical period since then. The process of modernization, in which devcom was initially nurtured, was influenced by quantitative and empirical social sciences theory, philosophy, and methodology; in particular, it had a strong economics orientation. It has been one of the most powerful paradigms in development study and practice to originate after World War II, with enormous economic, social, and cultural consequences. Concepts and theories that articulated the development of Western Europe and North America were used by sociologists, economists, political scientists, anthropologists, and others to generate development models for countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Mass media were accorded a central position in the modernization paradigm. The use of media for transmission of information and for persuasion, derived from World War II–related psychological warfare research in the United States, were transferred to areas such as extension education, instruction, agricultural, and health extension in development. By the 1970s, the concept of development and change expanded to include many more types of social change guided by different theories, disciplinary influences, geographical considerations, and methodologies. Change now included a widely participatory process of social change in a society and included social and cultural aspects besides the economic. While the participatory mode of communication for development programs and activities was a welcome addition to the devcom toolbox, the definitions of participation reflected a wide variety of approaches. In many contexts, the level of participation required by the people was low and perfunctory. Toward the end of the 1980s, the concept and practice of empowerment expanded upon the earlier objective of participation in development communication models and practice. Broadly, empowerment is a process by which individuals, organizations, and communities gain control and mastery over their social and economic conditions. The concept and practice of empowerment posed a challenge to the identity and practice of development communication. It changed the way communication was conceptualized earlier and used in development and change work. At present, social justice within the processes of development and social change has gained traction and urgency. In the last 40 years, there has been a steep increase in income inequality and individual opportunity globally. Millions of people are still exposed to life-threatening diseases, malnutrition, hunger, and other debilitating conditions, and have very limited access to basic resources, such as education and healthcare. What are the progressive alternatives to the neoliberal model of directed change? What should be the place and role of devcom in alternative approaches? These concerns are addressed by anchoring ideas within a critical theory of social change for social justice.


Development Journalism  

Yvonne T. Chua

The term “development journalism” is five decades old. But if the volume of academic research was the lone measure of its reach and impact, then one may erroneously conclude that this field of journalism has hardly had any reach and impact at all. There is a paucity of scholarly studies for a genre that has proliferated across three continents and was once touted as the new journalism for Third World countries. Existing literature points to two main patterns. One sees scholars pitted against each other on what development journalism is and ought to be. The reason: diverse, even opposing, variations of this genre of journalism have emerged according to social, political, economic, and cultural variations in a country or region. The original ideals of development journalism, which requires independent, critical evaluation of the process of development, have been replaced by justifications for a state-controlled media in authoritarian states being passed off as development journalism. That explains the second pattern: studies tend to diverge rather than converge on the concept of development journalism. Over the years, calls have been made to standardize the notion of development journalism or, failing that, to revamp the entire concept. Until that happens, scholars embarking on the study of development journalism need to bear in mind the different approaches and practices, and avoid cherry-picking components that will distort findings. The approaches range from development journalists as willing partners of government (statist) to watchdogs (investigative) and from interventionist (participatory or emancipatory) to guardians of transparency. Within the range are more variants or combinations. The bright side is that there is agreement on some of the essentials for development journalism: emphasis on the process of development to bring about social change (communitarian).