Readings in relief and development for the college freshman
October 24, 2013 5:44 AM   Subscribe

When I was sixteen, I said I wanted to be a doctor and work in humanitarian relief. A few years on I'm not so sure - but I want to read all about relief and development! Specifically, the economics and politics of international development, as well as aid workers' experiences. Memoirs, essay collections, academic treatises, etc are welcome.

Assume that I'm familiar with the fundamentals of economics, the rough outlines of world history, a smattering of postcolonial theory and the other basic stuff one picks up having graduated high school and moved on to a small, selective liberal arts college. Thanks!
posted by undue influence to Education (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Why don't you look for syllabi by professors teaching classes in the field? Might be a good place to start.
posted by kat518 at 5:49 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

White Man's Burden - William Easterly
Development As Freedom - Amartya Sen
Pathologies of Power - Paul Farmer (this one is my favorite, but be careful, it might get you wanting to be a doctor again!)
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:16 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Encountering Development by Arturo Escobar is a good place to start. It started a lot of critical conversations about 15 years ago. You could search for others that cited him later.

Also, David Werner's The Politics of Primary Health Care and Child Survival is really interesting and worthwhile, in spite of its dry title. It is mostly about oral rehydration therapies, and the problems of medicalizing such a simple solution of water, sugar and salt.
posted by umbú at 6:21 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mountains Beyond Mountains is the story about Paul Farmer, who was mentioned above. It's truly inspiring.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:25 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

From 2010, but lots of archives to read: A grad student's guide to the international development blogosphere.

Also, look up Metafilter user allkindsoftime. He's posted some detailed and insightful AskMe answers about the world of humanitarian relief. I learned a lot from his answers to this question.
posted by purpleclover at 7:58 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Off the top of my head:

Anthropologists of development:
James Ferguson -- exceptionally clear and accessible to non-anthropologists
Arturo Escobar
Tania Li -- updates Ferguson's and Escobar's 90s classics
David Mosse -- who just published a review article that should be a great jumping off point for you. Let me know if you have trouble accessing it.

Anthropologists of humanitarianism and human rights:
Liisa Malkki -- refugees and some more recent stuff on humanitarians
Peter Redfield (just published an ethnography of MSF)
Didier Fassin
Harri Englund
posted by col_pogo at 10:14 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Development Economics course from Tyler Cowan of Marginal Revolution.

Chris Blattman, formerly at Yale and now at Columbia's SIPA, writes rather prolifically on international development topics and posts his syllabi.

I would also take a look at the websites of the leading grad schools in this field (Georgetown's SFS, the aforementioned SIPA, Johns Hopkins' SAIS) and see what resources they've posted.
posted by emkelley at 10:20 AM on October 24, 2013

David Rieff (who happens to be the son of Susan Sontag) has written quite a bit on this topic (and others).

A Bed For the Night is a good starting point.

Also, I agree that anything written by Paul Farmer is worth reading.
posted by janey47 at 10:20 AM on October 24, 2013

Richard Peet's Theories of Development also looks good.

Oh, and I forgot Kathryn Mathers' "Mr Kristof, I presume?", a great intro to thinking critically about humanitarianism.

And Mike McGovern's "Popular Development Economics—An
Anthropologist among the Mandarins"
is a good critical take on popular economic takes on development, by way of a critique of Paul Collier.
posted by col_pogo at 2:33 PM on October 24, 2013

If you haven't already, I think you sort of have to read Jeffrey Sachs to understand what a lot of the more critical voices in development are reacting against.

Seconding Chris Blattman. Nthing Paul Farmer (Pathologies of Power blew my mind and continues to do so). Peter Uvin is awesome. Alex de Waal is always a terrific, challenging read and forces me to think hard about deeply-held truths.
posted by naoko at 3:05 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

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