Current Research Working Groups

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Power of/in/through Development Discourse (Isha Bhatnagar, George Spisak, Scott Peters

Across the social science disciplines ‘power’ is as pervasive and contested a term as can be found. It comes as no surprise, then, that the interdisciplinary field of ‘development’ should play host to a multiplicity of theoretical constructions and deployments of ‘power’, as both an explanatory framework and a dependent outcome. Unfortunately, the term itself is rarely afforded the same analytical rigor as the study of its circulation, with scholarship and pedagogy both relying on a tacit understanding that the analyst and audience share an understanding of ‘power’ without ensuring that this is true. Careful examination of discourses surrounding power and development provides a space to examine what this means for the practice of development itself. Our study of development as a process and ideology is incomplete without a critical analysis of power: theoretical perspectives, methodological directions, and ways in which it has been operationalized in contemporary studies on development. This project seeks to address this lacuna by undertaking a systematic review of how ‘power’ is thought within discourses around development.  Our goal is to prepare a syllabus for a course to be taught in Development Sociology that will allow students to locate and clarify the multiple and competing conceptions of power used within the scholarship of development.

Performing our Future  (Heidi Mouillesseaux-Kunzman and Scott Peters)

Dominant development patterns and processes at regional and local community levels tend to reinforce rather than ameliorate a host of problematic realities, including economic inequities, bounded imaginations, and resigned preferences.  Instead of adding to our understanding of how this situation is produced and sustained, our Research Working Group is conducting action research in the Southern Tier region of New York State that aims to produce new knowledge and theory about how these problems can be addressed.  Interweaving diverse methods and ways of knowing from the arts, humanities, design, and social sciences, we will take up and refine the following initial questions: How can arts and culture promote individual voice and collective agency, unbounding a community’s imagination and ambition in order to create the conditions for equitable economic development? How can a community organize itself to build an economy and civic culture that is democratic, equitable, broad-based and sustainable?  And how can scholars, students, and staff from higher educational institutions work with non-academic community members to contribute to these goals?