This seminar series provided a forum for inter-disciplinary, critical and practical discussions that explored the relationship between research, aid and social justice. It enabled researchers and practitioners to engage with the histories and ideas of international aid, debate innovative theories and methods, and move towards a future research agenda for developing new directions in international aid in support of global social justice.The aim was to support a nascent but dispersed network of development studies researchers, looking to expand theoretical explorations of international aid and its meanings and practices.
Research on aid in development largely articulates two distinct positions: those that, in highlighting its inherent and systemic failings, argue that aid is redundant; and those, primarily articulated by development practitioners, that are preoccupied with how best to mobilise, direct and manage financial flows. This seminar series, by bringing together these different perspectives, provides a pathway out of this current impasse between the purely critical on the one hand and the instrumental on the other. The critical, alternative perspectives are often marginalised as being unhelpful to current aid practice or are co-opted into the mainstream, thus losing their radical edge; and those that work within international aid and recognise the need for change often find only limited support from the academic community. Importantly, this series created a space in which these perspectives could be represented in order to enhance the communication of critical research findings for improved practice.
There have been two seminars in the series focusing on different moments of international aid and the continuities and divergences over time. The first, held on 4th October 2007, was concerned with exploring histories of international aid, its colonial antecedents and the forms of global relations that have evolved, highlighting the implications of this history for contemporary discourses and practices of aid. The second seminar, held in March 2009, examined current ideas and practices of aid and reviewed ongoing debates on the meanings and impact of aid. It also looked to the future, envisioning the kind of international aid practice that could be possible and tracing the potential pathways to getting there.
The series was convened by: Rosalind Eyben, IDS, University of Sussex; Uma Kothari, IDPM, University of Manchester; and Fiona Wilson, Roskilde University.