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Commodifying development experience: deconstructing development as gift in the development blockbuster

Lewis, David ORCID: 0000-0003-0732-9020 (2014) Commodifying development experience: deconstructing development as gift in the development blockbuster. Anthropological Forum, 24 (4). pp. 440-453. ISSN 0066-4677

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Identification Number: 10.1080/00664677.2013.863144


This paper discusses the recent rise of popular ‘blockbuster’ books written by international development industry insiders and produced by commercial publishers. The paper explores a set of common stylistic devices found within this emerging genre. Though each book is different, a key trope is the story of an author's earlier professional life—the hard lessons and gritty insights that have supposedly emerged from it—that normally underpins each narrative. By living the challenges involved in development work at first hand, and by making mistakes and experiencing epiphanies along the way, these author-professionals want readers to know that they have found out the hard way that long-cherished beliefs about development now need to be questioned. Readers are invited to relive these lessons and epiphanies, and to think and act differently about development by upholding a highly pragmatic form of development professionalism. Combining elements of research monograph, self-help book and personal memoir, these development blockbuster books can be understood not only as commodities, but also as part of the development gift. The authors promise a gift of experience but, in reality, these books are mundane commodities enmeshed in capitalist exchange relations.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2014 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2014 15:48
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 14:59

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