Themed sessions

Below are the themed sessions that have been proposed for the conference.  You are welcome to submit a paper for one of these sessions, or contribute to the open abstract submission.

A Politics of Critique and Hope: towards a development that works

Session organisers: Uma Kothari, and Regina Scheyvens

In this session we explore how progressive politics, discourses of hope and aspiration, and constructive critique can disrupt and renew our understandings of development.  The first Development Studies conference in New Zealand, took place at Massey University in 1993. It was titled ‘Development that Works’ and brought together academics, policy-makers and practitioners to discuss positive examples, approaches and strategies for development. In this session we revisit that overall theme by calling for contributions that identify progressive politics and discourses of hope and aspiration in the development space. Also relevant are papers relating to the place of critique in development studies, discourse and practice, and the space it creates or closes off in terms of being able to think about ways of envisaging a ‘development that works’.

Disruptive politics of resource extraction: pathways to renewal in extractive industries and development

Session organisers: Glenn Banks, Anthony Bebbington, Denise Humphreys Bebbington

What are the political pathways towards renewed forms of extractive industry governance that meet the imperatives of climate change, rights-based development with dignity, and resource conservation (in particular water and biodiversity resources)? How can these pathways be described empirically and theoretically in ways that resonate and communicate with the politics of practical policy and of social movement strategy as well as with key theoretical debates on the politics of development? What sorts of politics lead to governance decisions that prohibit particular (or all) types of extractive industry (as in the case of recent legislation and decisions in New Zealand and El Salvador); what sorts of politics lead to more reformist governance options that still offer the prospect of rights-respecting and dignified forms of extractive industry; and what sorts of politics continue to lead to the most socially and environmentally destructive forms of extraction? This session invites papers from all regions and is especially interesting in placing experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific in conversation with experiences beyond this region.

Humanitarians of Aotearoa New Zealand Past and Present

Session organisers: Jesse Hession Grayman, Philip Fountain

New Zealand humanitarians are well-known for their can-do attitude, gamely working on teams to address crises on the job. The government promotes and burnishes New Zealand’s humanitarian reputation, ‘punching above its weight’ and ‘playing [its] part’ in the global humanitarian system, particularly in the Pacific. This master narrative, however, is worth disrupting through explorations of the lived experiences of New Zealand humanitarians themselves. Some social scientists have mounted productive critiques of the humanitarian industry, but frequently missing from this scholarship are the nuanced voices of everyday humanitarians: the nurses, engineers, soldiers, administrators, clerics, students, and retirees who seek to help others in crisis. This panel seeks to understand the practice and meaning of humanitarian work according to its practitioners—past and present—from New Zealand. Lines of inquiry may include questions of New Zealand’s efficacy in humanitarian operations; the New Zealand military’s humanitarian mandate; the ways in which Māori ideas and practices of assistance (āwhina) in times of crisis inform or contest Eurocentric understandings of the humanitarian imperative; and the historical links between contemporary humanitarian endeavours and New Zealand’s imperial pasts. In short, this panel invites contributors—practitioners and academics—to discuss the values that guide humanitarian practice at a time when crisis events are increasing in frequency and the demand for humanitarian workers becomes more vital.

Moving paradigms: dance and social transformation in the South Pacific

Session organiser: Nicholas Rowe

The creative, moving body is a central means of cultural innovation and communication amongst people of the Pacific, and yet scholarship that critically investigates the nexus between dance and social cohesion in changing societies within the region is relatively sparse. This session presents illustrations that reveal how Pacific peoples have experienced and responded to colonization, migration, globalization and environmental change through dance. This includes questions into the ways in which various contemporary and traditional dance forms are taught, learnt, created, performed, viewed and valued within particular communities, and how these dance practices contribute to, or disrupt, social cohesion. The session emphasizes the importance of personal stories and Pacific research methodologies that value the voice of indigenous people, and respond to the concerns of particular Pacific communities.

Selling ethics: is ethical certification driving ethical development?

Session organisers: Kelle Howson and Peter Williams

Globalisation in agro-food networks has seen the disruption of sustainable rural livelihoods in the Global South, as deregulation and exposure to international competition allows for increasingly extractive forms of mass production. Correspondingly, traditional forms of national and local governance of primary production and trade have given way to new forms of transnational market-driven regulation. It is at this level that attempts to reassert the interests of local places and producers have emerged, in the form of ‘ethical’ certifications which leverage value from product origin (geographical indications), environmental sustainability (organics) and justice (Fairtrade). These initiatives have the potential to redistribute the gains of globalisation to promote inclusive development in the Global South, however they also pose challenges and possible risks. These include; 1. The neoliberalisation of social and environmental justice which removes local political contestation from development processes, 2. Barriers to participation resulting in increased marginalisation of the most vulnerable, and 3. Commercial co-optation of ethical trade discourse for ‘greenwashing’/’fairwashing’, resulting in the overall dilution of ethical certification.

This session invites papers from the development community to explore the potential of ethical certification to foster inclusive and sustainable development outcomes in production spaces in the global South, and the ways in which development scholars and practitioners can support and implement certification to this end.

Teaching Development: Challenges and Responses

Session organiser: Sharon McLennan

The development landscape is transforming at a rapid pace, the result of geo-political change, increasing interest in alternative paradigms, decolonisation and indigenous approaches, and the challenges of #aidtoo and other crises within the development industry. Within this complex environment, development practitioners have been challenged to practice their profession differently, and development academics also need to adapt pedagogies to respond to competing demands. These include:

  • The need to build soft skills such as cross-cultural communication and the ability to reflect on one’s own values and world view and to develop ethical models of practice which privilege respect, reciprocity and humility.
  • Growing recognition of the need to be responsive to indigenous concerns, and – in the Aotearoa New Zealand context – the call for teaching practice be led by Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
  • The question of whether development management needs to be more professionalised and the implications of this for development studies pedagogy (e.g. the role of competencies and professional bodies).
  • The continued importance of developing technical skills and the ability to both understand and deliver a range of aid modalities as these remain sought after for entry level employment.
  • The impact of the emergence of global citizenship education in tertiary institutions and the role development academics can play in broader social science education.
  • Student and staff interest in solidarity, activism and alternative forms of engagement with development, which is often triggered by critiques of traditional development models within development studies curricula.

This session will bring together academics with an interest in the pedagogy of development studies, to explore these themes and debates.

The land has eyes and teeth, and also heart and spirit: economic development on customary land in the Pacific

Session organisers: Regina Scheyvens, Glen Banks, and Litea Meo-Sewabu

External commentators regularly assert that customary practices around land ‘constrain’ economic development and impede investments in the Pacific. These sessions are based on research which seeks to turn that proposition on its head by examining how culture might facilitate effective business models based around customary land. Our research is premised on the notion that more is needed than ‘fitting’ Pacific views to modern economies; instead we propose that an exploration of how land is successfully used offers the potential to significantly reshape understandings of economies in the Pacific. The Rotuman phrase ‘the land has eyes and teeth’ points to people’s profound understanding of the power of the land and its mana, which demands respect by all who wish to ‘develop’ it. We will build upon this by also outlining examples of how Pacific businesses working on land are committed to serving family and community, showing that the land also has heart and spirit.

This is a two part session, allowing for researchers to present findings about this topic and, following this, for wider sharing of views and experiences on customary land and development in a talanoa session; participation is open to anyone who would like to join the conversation.


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