Date of Award
International and Intercultural Communication
Christina Foust, Ph.D.
Dean Saitta, Ph.D.
In this study I provide accounts of the phenomenology of development within a state of exception in Zimbabwe. My main goal was to understand how the notion of development is conceived by development NGOs and beneficiaries of their services. To achieve this objective, I raised several ontological questions about the capabilities ordinary citizens have to develop within an extraordinary context of political, economic and social uncertainty. Moreover, I explored the creative strategies and tactics adopted by development NGOs to make their operations possible in a context of severely curtailed freedoms. A significant part of that investigation was to find the role dialogic communication plays in enabling participatory practices and the formation of triad relationships. From both sets of participants, development was understood as a process of creating durable, just and positive change through empowering the poor and distressed so they could become self-sustaining without having to rely on handouts.
Methodologically, the study operates within a critical theory paradigm which allows for a dialogic and dialectical space between investigator and participants of the inquiry. For a research method, I opted for a qualitative rather than a quantitative study. A qualitative inquiry is open to the exploration of complex interconnected concepts, assumptions, perspectives, methods and interpretations this study demands. Among various qualitative methods, I adopted an interpretive phenomenological approach which allows for an in-depth study of complex phenomena. I designed an open-ended questionnaire which I used for interviewing seven development Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and two groups of beneficiaries.
Several themes emerged from the study about four key issues. One category of themes emerging from my conversations with representatives of development NGOs was about critical elements of development. A second thematic category for both development NGOs and beneficiaries was about the negative impact of the multiple crises generated by the state of exception. A third thematic category, addressed how the notion of development was perceived by both development NGOs and beneficiaries. From both sets of participants, development was understood as a process of creating durable, just and positive change through empowering the poor and distressed so they could become self-sustaining without having to rely on handouts. The fourth set of emergent themes was what I consider best practices. One of these best practices, which I discuss at length in Chapter 5, is the triad relationships which development NGOs have nurtured with beneficiaries and government. In my analysis of the results, I conclude that triad relationships have made possible the survival of development NGOs in a state of exception in which freedoms are severely curtailed.
The main contribution this study makes to scholarship is how an extraordinary political context can be antithetical to economic and human development. It provides salutary lessons about the critical importance on the part of development NGOs to fully comprehend the context in which they function. Survival in extraordinary contexts is predicated on how development NGOs respond to new and evolving challenges, as well as their creativity in identifying relevant strategies and tactics. Furthermore, the study provides a rare opportunity to interface a specific theory of development with reality. It presented a favorable juncture of circumstances in which Sen’s theorizing of development as freedom was put to use to critically think about the role of ideology, politics and culture in creating a hostile environment for development.
Antonio, Gladys, "Doing Development in Extraordinary Environments: Exploring the Impact of Development NGOs in Zimbabwe" (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 33.
Received from ProQuest
Communication, African studies