Why is there a ‘general’ trend amongst Filipinos to become developed like the ‘West’? Is economic and human development a form of colonialism?

*This has been submitted for my undergraduate dissertation in Anthropology. Still waiting for feedback but thought I should share the research. This is not entirely identical to the one I submitted as I changed some words. I know it’s not perfect and could have been improved but let me know what you think!*

ABSTRACT

There is a general trend amongst Third World countries to ‘progress’ and become like developed nations. Many people from developing nations wish their countries would become as ‘wealthy’ as the United States, Europe and Japan, comparing their countries to these affluent nations. This dissertation will explore this dichotomy between the ‘rich’ and the ‘poor’. I will explore reasons why ‘development’ is highly favoured and why developed nations are regarded as models of development. In examining why the OECD countries and intergovernmental bodies, such as the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations promote economic and human development, I shall investigate whether development is a form of colonialism.

This paper is divided into two sections. In Part I, I will discuss why Filipinos are desperate to become developed and provide examples of development initiatives in the Philippine and the complications associated with it, introducing important points that are key to the development discourse. In Part II, I will explore the theoretical, philosophical, and ethical aspect of development referring to voluntourism as a prime tool to ‘help’ developing nations.

Key words: development, colonialism, poverty, Millennium Development Goals, the Philippines

ACRONYMS

BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, and China

CAGPL – Canadian Arctic Gas Pipeline Ltd.

CIA – Central Intelligence Agency

CMA – Centre for Migrant Advocacy

CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility

DFID – Department for International Development

GDP – Gross Domestic Product

GNI – Gross National Income

GNP – Gross National Product

HIC – Highly Indebted Countries

IBRD – International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

ICS – International Citizen Service

ILO – International Labour Organisation

IOM – International Organisation for Migration

LEDCs – Less Economically Developed Countries

MEDCs – More Economically Developed Countries

MDGs – Millennium Development Goals

NEDA – National Economic and Development Authority

NGO – Non-governmental organization

NIC – Newly Industrialized Countries

OECD – Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

OFW – Filipino Overseas Workers

POEA – Philippine Overseas Employment Administration

PPP – Purchasing Power Parity

SAIH – Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund

UNCTAD – United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

UNDAF – United Nations Development Assistance Framework

UNDP – United Nations Development Programme

UNGA – United Nations General Assembly

UNPD – United Nations Population Division

VSO – Voluntary Service Overseas

WB – The World Bank

WDI – World Development Indicator

WEF – World Economic Forum

WHO – World Health Organisation

WWII – World War Two

PART I: PHILIPPINE DEVELOPMENT

 

WHY IS DEVELOPMENT IS THE WAY FORWARD?

 As my flight descended into Manila in 2012, I recalled how rapidly the city has changed. Green fields have disappeared, the water has become filthy and like many megacities in industrially developing countries, Manila is becoming more congested and more polluted. About eighty percent of the city is composed of slums comprising self-built, ‘informal’ housing. Urban development has dotted the landscape with high-rise buildings constructed and infrastructure established (see fig. 1). It appears the Philippines is embracing development and it has decided not to be the last in Southeast Asia.

This paper has been inspired by my experience of growing up in both developing and developed nations, interacting with different peoples from various beliefs, backgrounds, world-views, and socio-cultural groups. Until I was thirteen, I lived in the Philippines before moving to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with my family where we stayed for almost six years. Afterwards, we lived in Hanoi, Vietnam for a year prior coming to Hong Kong for a couple of months before starting my undergraduate studies in Aberdeen. Throughout these periods, I have seen the best and worst of countries. A common question arises when observing Filipinos in their conversations about their government and the global and socio-economic standing of the Philippines. Why do Filipinos think that development is good for them? Why is it that Filipinos wants to become Westernised and what does the West possess that is inherently attractive to the peoples of the Philippines?

So I selectively asked my Filipino friends certain questions in order to investigate what the layperson thought about development in general terms and to explore the Filipinos’ veracious appetite to become ‘developed’. The last question concerns the specifics of human and economic development which this paper focuses on. I included my Vietnamese friends in this endeavor to see how my research question above applies to another ‘Third World’ country. Regardless of their age, profession, and demographic background, I asked them (1) which country first comes to mind when they think of a developed nation; (2) Should the Philippines/Vietnam become developed like United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Japan, etc.? (3) Do the Philippines/Vietnam have the potential to become a developed country? (4) Should the Philippine/Vietnamese educational system follow a Westernised education system? If so why? Finally, (5) can education/foreign investment reduce ‘poverty’?

For question one, the answers are as follows: Japan, USA, Australia, Canada, UK, Europe, France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Singapore, Israel, Sweden, and Norway. These are technically, according to the World Bank and the United Nations, considered as ‘developed’. The first five have been mentioned more than three times. Some answered China, the Philippines, and Qatar however these are anomalies probably due to personal preference of what ‘developed’ is and/or have been educated.

With regards to question two, majority of the Filipino informants said, ‘yes’ “the Philippines should be lined up with the world’s first class”. Why? Because, “the living conditions and the quality of life is much better in those countries” and that “these countries prioritise their people”; “Industry, agriculture, and science are beneficial” and that “we can have an opportunity to make a living”. If the Philippines is to become ‘developed’ then the country will “be more ‘organised’ in terms of infrastructure and the people would be more ‘disciplined’”. Very few said ‘no’, “because every nation is different (culture, language, government, economy, geographical location, etc.)” and that the Philippines should “simply adopt a more disciplined culture like the West” and not wholly convert to being ‘Western’ (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

As for question three, most are resolved with solid ‘yes’, arguing that “the Philippines is rich in natural resources – geothermal, mineral, natural”, that the “Filipinos are intelligent, smart, multi-talented and hardworking” and that “the population is young and well educated”. Many also agree that the economy is growing, for instance, “the Philippines has already surpassed India as a Call Center Capital of the World”. This has gained headlines in the media over the past five years (examples, Bajaj 2011; Brooks 2014; Heydarian 2014). In asserting this, one person declared that, “Filipinos are working outside the Philippines in many of these developed countries as engineers, doctors, nurses, PTs, teachers, etc. [they] are highly productive in these countries and many also hold positions in large companies, hospitals, governments and businesses. These countries use Filipinos to sustain their economy and maintain their standard of living, so why not in their own country?” As the reason for this failure, most have mentioned that the government is ‘corrupt’ and that “If the government is honest and if the Filipinos are united and co-operate with each and have the same vision for the growth of the economy” then “the country can progress” (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

In question 4, generally, Filipinos answered ‘yes’. They wanted the Philippine education system to be more “competitive with other countries”, so the “quality of education would be better”, so “the ‘backward’ Filipino mindset can be changed and improved” and so that “we can ‘develop’ as a nation”. Some have stated that international schools in the Philippines “produced world-class extraordinary pupils” so therefore Philippine educational system should follow the international or world standard of education. (How can ‘international’ standard be defined, when there are so many educational systems?) On the other hand, a good proportion of Filipinos said ‘no’ because of their pride in Filipino achievements overseas which are the “result of the Philippine educational system”, moreover “even though Philippine schools and universities are short of funding from the government, they are still able to produce good graduates who are able to compete academically abroad” (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

Regarding the response of my Vietnamese friends for the second and third questions, it is intriguing that all of them aspire to Vietnam becoming ‘developed’, however, not in the same ways as the ‘West’. As one said, “I want Vietnam to be a developed country with the Vietnamese culture, which is different from American and European culture.” Similarly, one contended that “the US, UK, Japan, etc. are not the happiest countries in the world”. Based on living in Vietnam for a year, it seems that the Vietnamese people have a more cohesive identity of which they are more proud in comparison to the Filipino population who generally aspire to become something or someone else. All my informants have said that Vietnam has the potential to improve its world economic and human ranking but is far from achieving it. As for education, they want the Vietnamese educational system to be aligned with the international standard as “it is more practical and it can help students find work easier after graduation” and “it will improve the quality of students and will make it easier for them to work abroad”.

The last question asks can ‘education’ and ‘foreign investment’ bring people out of poverty? Most thought ‘yes’. For education, “it will empower the people to decide and think what is right and not just blindly follow the few elite who are in power.” Filipino families in general tend to focus on the importance of education, which they think is the only valuable investment for their children. They believe that performing well at school and university can lead to better employment and jobs. One Filipino informant has argued that this mindset should be changed as this is the reason why the majority of Filipinos, except for the few wealthy families, are geared towards working for someone else as opposed to the Chinese who send their children to prepare them to take over their family businesses. Some believe that although education can pave the way, education alone is not the answer as there are many Filipino graduates whom are jobless and have no choice but to look towards other countries. Hence, the reason why the Philippines is the world’s top exporter of skilled, cheap labour to other countries, according to ILO, IOM, POEA, UNDP, and the World Bank (Santos 2012).

Although many agree that a boost in foreign investment can lead to a rise in employment and monetary gain, many also argue that the Filipinos and the Vietnamese should be given assistance to encourage them to invest in their own country, allowing Filipino and Vietnamese businesses to flourish and to open new job markets. This is so as not to rely heavily on foreign investment “who do not know the needs of their countrymen”. In reiterating this, many blame the government for corruption, arguing that change has to start from a ‘top to bottom’ process including improvement of educational standards “with focus on communication, mathematics, science, and technology”, “supporting new ideas and innovations in all branches of work”, encouraging Filipino and Vietnamese families to educate children to be “entrepreneurs, designers, developers, and artists”, building better infrastructures, and expanding investment.

These questions allowed us to see that many Filipinos are determined to become ‘developed’ and to ‘progress’. They see the United States, Europe, Japan, etc. as great models of this. They see that in developed nations, infrastructure and education systems are better, as are standards of living, social organisation and legal and judicial systems. We have also seen that they view the Philippines and Vietnam far more differently from developed nations in terms of wealth and world rankings. Thus, they view themselves as needing ‘development’.

PHILIPPINE ECONOMIC AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

The Philippines is a Southeast Asian archipelago of 7,107 islands, currently under threat by climate change and rising sea levels (CIA 2014a). Its topography consists of mountainous landscapes, dense forests, plain terrains and coastal lowlands with 18% of land as arable (CIA 2014a; UNDP n.b). The country has a high percentage of flora and fauna species, being rich in biodiversity and natural resources (CIA 2014a; Davis 1987; UNDP n.b).

The country however is prone to natural disasters including a earthquakes, tsunamis and experiences fifteen to twenty destructive typhoons each year. There have also been a large number of environmental issues including landslides (due to uncontrolled deforestation, urbanisation, and land conversion to agriculture), air and water pollution in urban areas, and degradation of coral reefs and mangrove forests (CIA 2014a; Global Footprint Network 2012). Along with long-term armed conflict in the south (Mindanao), government ‘corruption’ and population growth, these natural disasters make it difficult to establish lasting infrastructure and reduce the rate of poverty, impeding sustainable development, and increasing food and energy crises (Global Footprint Network 2012; NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014; UNDP n.b.).

The Philippines has a population of about 107,668,231, (July 2014 estimate), a considerable rise from twenty seven million in the 1960s making it the thirteenth most populated country in the world (CIA 2014b; Global Footprint Network 2012). About 48.8% of the population lives in urban cities, which are exponentially increasing in population every year (World Bank 2014). The capital, Manila, is home to about 20 million residents and counting (ibid). The nation had an active working population of 37% aged 25-54, followed by 33.7% aged 0-14 years, then 19% aged 15-24 years in 2013. This equates to a total of forty-one million people in the workforce, of which 53% work in the services sector, 32% in the agriculture sector, and 15% in the industry sector (CIA 2014a). Its world ranking in economic performance is improving; the country’s GDP (PPP) was $454.3 billion in 2013, ranking it 32nd in the world; it’s GDP (real growth rate) was 6.8% in 2013 ranking it 27th in the world and its industrial production growth rate is 9% in 2013, ranking it nineteenth in the world (ibid).

In 2000, following the United Nations Millennium Summit, eight international goals were set by more than 180 UN member states and the NGO and business sectors, to be achieved by 2015 with set targets and indicators to measure the progress (IBRD and WB 2013). These goals are to eradicate extreme ‘poverty’ and ‘hunger’, to achieve universal primary education, to promote gender equality and empower women, to reduce child mortality, to improve maternal health, to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, to ensure environmental sustainability, and to develop a global partnership for development (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and The World Bank 2013; United Nations 2014).

Some of the goals have been met well ahead of the deadline. According to United Nation’s MDGs report last year, the world has reduced extreme poverty by half, “in 1990, almost half of the population in developing regions lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate dropped to 22 per cent by 2010” (ibid: 4). Gender parity in primary education has been reduced by all developing nations in 2012 and access to drinking water became a reality for 2.3 billion people since the ratification of the MDGs, “halving the proportion of people without access to an improved drinking water source by 2010, five years ahead of schedule” (ibid). On the other hand, some were slow to reach the targets. Although there is an improvement in the rate of primary school enrolment, this has stagnated. “In 2012, 50 million children were out of school. High dropout rates remain a major impediment to universal primary education. An estimated 50 per cent of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas.” (ibid: 5). Chronic hunger, child and maternal mortality continue to decline but more assistance is needed to ensure the needs of the hundreds of millions of people are met.

How does the Philippines stand in this? For human development, the country has halved the proportion of people with no access to basic sanitation, raising the percentage to 74.3% (both urban and rural statistics). Access to safe drinking water has improved to 91.8% of the population in 2012 (CIA 2014; World Bank n.b). Poverty has been reduced significantly from 34.4% in 1991 to 25.2% in 2012 (NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014: 2, 4, 6; World Bank n.b). Literacy rate (defined by persons over 15 years who can read and write) has increased from 81% in 1990 to 95.4% in 2014 with males being 95% and females 95.8% (CIA 2014a; UNDP n.b). Consequently, the WEF (2014a,b) ranks the Philippines as first in Asia in terms of gender equality on health, education, economic participation, and political empowerment and ninth in the world out of 142 economies, scoring 0.7814 (0=inequality; 1=equality).

Although some targets have been met, the country still has to improve in many aspects scoring only 0.654 in the Human Development Index. According to Arsenio Balisacan, Economic Planning Secretary of the UNDP country team, the country is behind schedule in completion of secondary education (although there’s a high enrolment rate), equal distribution of income (there’s unequal flow of income between the rich and poor related with education completion), slow decline of poverty reduction, and decreasing maternal mortality, amongst the few (NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014).

As for economic development, the Philippines has been described by the UN, the World Bank and other inter-governmental agencies as a ‘resilient economy’ because it “withstood the recent global food, fuel, and financial crises and graduated to middle-income status at the end of 2009” (United Nations Philippines 2011: 2; UNDAF). This is due to “minimal exposure to troubled international securities, lower dependence on exports, relatively resilient domestic consumption, large remittances from four to five million OFW, and a rapidly expanding business process outsourcing industry” (CIA 2014a). For instance in 2012, the Philippine stock market was operating the second best in Asia (ibid). This means that the country is now depending less on international development aid and shaping its own course of development (UNDP n.b.).

In the first quarter of 2012, according to the Philippine Office, the economy grew by 5.9% out running other Asian economies (Poquiz n.b.). GDP grew from 4.9 in 2012 to 6.5% in 2014 and remittances from OFWs raised GNI from 2.4% in 2012 to 5.6% in 2013 (Poquiz n.b.; World Bank 2014). Economic growth became possible due a buoyant services sector, increasing public sector spending, household consumption, external trade, tourism and manufacturing (Poquiz n.b; Castro 2012; NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014). The government, according to Balisacan, will therefore continue to increase spending to support capital formation or investment spending (Poquiz n.b).

DILEMMAS OF PHILIPPINE DEVELOPMENT

In this section, I will address three problems in Philippine economic and human development and will introduce key points that will be discussed further in Part II.

  1. Many of the working adult population are emigrating to developed nations, making the Philippines the world’s third largest labour exporter, supplying First world countries with cheap labour (CMA 2009: 5). This results in ‘brain drain’, defined by ILO as when “emigration of tertiary educated persons for permanent or long stays abroad reaches significant levels” (Lowell and Findlay 2001: 7). As with the case of the Philippines, the “best and the brightest dominate the permanent outflow, leaving behind less-qualified workers” (ibid: 12). Due to the ability of Filipinos to converse in English well, “there are more Filipinos in foreign lands than any other nationality percentagewise” (Gripaldo 2006). China has 35 million abroad (2.6% of total population), India has 22 million (1.5% of total population) and the Philippines has 12 million, that is 13.95% of total population (ibid).

Instead of protecting their own resources and contributing to their own society, the lack of jobs and particularly well-paid posts as well as the global need for cheap labour, pushes Filipinos to work abroad. As mentioned above, loss of professional workers “due to continuous demand for nurses overseas, former Depart of Health Secretary Doctor Jaime Galvez-Tan said that the number of doctors who have downgraded themselves into nurses has reached 9,000. Almost 6,000 of them had left for the United States. More disturbing is that 80% of these doctors-turned-nurses were government doctors…. Many teachers have opted to seek alternative employment abroad, agreeing to work as domestic workers and caretakers. These jobs are well below their academic training but nevertheless pay much better than being teachers in the Philippines” (CMA 2009: 28).

Most OFWs are also vulnerable to abuse and violence abroad where labour migration laws are not strict, even risking their lives to feed their families back home and to give their children better lives. For instance, many employers in Hong Kong and the Middle East confiscate the passports and legal documents of their workers to manipulate them into working long hours and subjecting them to sexual harassment. Many immigrants also fall into difficult situations such as being stuck penniless in the host country because of rogue employment agencies, which sent them there. Although the Philippine government is working to curb this problem, the system itself is slow to change as many politicians are corrupt, robbing millions from public funds and murdering their opponents.

Another problem is that multinationals in developing countries often bring in their own managers and skilled workers making it slow for them to employ locals in senior or better-paid positions (Lowell and Findlay 2001: 9). As a result, high percentages of local employees working in corporations are in difficult positions to pull themselves out of ‘poverty’. With their low-income salaries they cannot feed or provide adequate shelters for their families. In addition, lack of employment opportunities are an issue when there are mass migrations from rural areas to cities like Manila. As a result, slums build up and when natural disasters such as typhoons occur, they are usually the worse affected, keeping the poverty cycle going (NEDA and UNDP Philippines (2014). When the vast majority of land is being bought by wealthy families or foreign corporations, many farmers and low-skilled people are pushed into dangerous jobs such as gold mining, risking their lives.

  1. The United Nations and its inter-agencies agree in all their global development reports, that all children have to stay in school and attend primary and secondary education. There is the Filipino belief that education can alleviate people out of poverty. NEDA and UNDP’s 2014 MDG report of the Philippines shows that “the average daily wage of a worker who has a college degree is more than three times the daily wage of one who is an elementary graduate and more than double that of a high school graduate” (ibid: 8). By merely educating people, can graduates pull themselves out of poverty? Is formal education really a necessity?

As with the previous question, lack of job opportunities in the Philippines makes highly qualified graduates take ‘lesser’ jobs in response to global shocks and demand (Lowell and Findlay 2001: 14). For instance, an electronics engineer will become a seafarer or an IT graduate into a maid (ibid). Education can be a means to landing in a better life but it’s not the only option. As Ferguson (1994: 12) reiterates, “Schools, the Marxists argue, were established by the capitalist state in order to reproduce labour power for an industrial order whose jobs were organized hierarchically. They are not tools of engineering social equality – they are by nature mechanisms for reproducing labour power for a class society”. Putting children in schools encourages a society of monetary division of labour which is different from traditional life where they learn on-hand practical things with their families and where social relations are centre in their subsistence economic system (Doeppers 1984; Larkin 1972; Reed 1978). This kind of education where people are prepared for a specialised roles as opposed to teaching sustainable options such as self-reliance does not help people as many sell their land to earn the extra money for their children’s education.

Another problem I have with education is that due to the value placed on it within the society there are many who fall into deep debts when parents send their children to higher education, especially to universities that has good reputation including University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University. However, the Philippines face high rates of unemployment even today hence the reason why many go abroad and change their career paths (Lowell and Findlay 2001). Even when graduates apply for jobs, employers usually discriminate based on educational background, favouring those who have studied in exclusive schools and high ranking universities which tuition fees are not affordable by the bread-winner in the family with no stable job. Therefore, in this case, education does not alleviate the poor from their conditions.

  1. The Philippine economy is growing however, what does this mean when ‘poverty’ is still widespread? How is economic growth defined when there is still poverty? According to NEDA and UNDP Philippines (2014: 2, 4, 6; also World Bank n.b), “despite the high economic growth in recent years, progress in reducing poverty has been slow. While income poverty has declined from 34.4% in 1991 to 25.2% in 2012, this is still far from the MDC target of 17.2% by [this year].” In 2013, Unemployment is 7.1%, 2.9 million unemployed persons, which is an improvement from 27.9%, 11 million unemployed persons, in 2008 (CIA 2014a; CMA 2013; Lowell and Findlay 2001; NEDA and UNDP Philippines; World Bank 2014)… [However] having a job does not guarantee living above the poverty line. The average income of the households belonging to the richest is about eighteen times that of the average income of the households belonging to the poorest.”

The UN and other inter-governmental agencies currently define the global poverty rate as living on $1.25 a day (Kweifio-Okal 2014; Legrain 2002: 50; United Nations 2013; United Nations 2014; World Bank 2014). According to Rist (2008) poverty is usually measured by what you have financially, if you have less money, then you are poor. The industrialised world places emphasis on commodity (goods and services) the idea is, the more we have or accumulate the better life is (Rist 2008:16). However, there are certainly many conceivable ways of being ‘affluent’ and ‘poverty’ (Sahlins 1972). I will expand on this in the next section.

Why, with ample resources, “a fertile country rich in natural resources… flora and fauna abound… and the widest possible varieties of fruits and vegetables are to be found” is the Philippines labelled a ‘poor’ country? (Davis 1987: 1). Are poor countries really ‘poor’? When we consider that Philippine resources such as timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, copper, and natural produce are exploited mainly for export and not for local and national use and that multinational companies are benefiting from this resource extraction as opposed to locals. Hence, developing nations provide the developed world with raw materials needed for production and manufacturing. It seems plausible to say that economic expansion and foreign investment does not alleviate people from ‘poor conditions’ (CIA 2014a; UNDP n.b.). There is sustainable development as an alternative to mainstream development, however it still means venturing into the capitalist system and adopting a consumerist and materialistic lifestyle, which is not sustainable.

The UN and other inter-government organisations express the need “for developing countries to concentrate all their resources for the cause of development” (UNGA 1974: 3). This means two things: (1) resource exploitation and environmental degradation and (2) increase of inequality (Rist 2008: 13-16). Resource extraction for commercial profit can be seen everywhere. It is usually attributed to the destructive forces of the capitalist economy (Mosse 2013: 229). While the effects of development and globalisation are being recognised, it is also required that all nations need “to put an end to the waste of natural resources” which is an oxymoron (UNGA 1974: 4).

Economic exponential growth is not realistic ineffective (Seligson and Passé-Smith 1998). Rather it stagnates when it reaches its ‘carrying capacity’ (ibid). We live in a finite world in which primary sources are being depleted and are already running out despite our technological advances (Meadows et al 2005). Capital and wealth accumulation on the national scale does not mean poverty reduction (Seligson and Passé-Smith 1998). The root causes of poverty must be considered.

According to James Ferguson, an American anthropologist, neo-liberal capitalism furthers the divide between rich and poor. “It appears self-evident that debtor Third World nation-states and starving peasants share a common ‘problem’, that both lack a single ‘thing’: development. If capitalism is not a progressive force but a reactionary one in the Third World – not the cause of development but the obstacle to it, not the cure for poverty but the cause of it – then a capitalist-run development project is a fundamentally contradictory endeavor. If it is meant to promote imperial capitalism (and why else would capitalist institutions like the World Bank, USAID, etc. do it?) then it cannot at the same time be an instrument for development, at least not for ‘real’ development” (Ferguson 1994: 11). Growth in numbers without real difference in the lives of people is ineffective (Seligson and Passé-Smith 1998)

As Katy Gardner (2012: 23) puts it in her book about the consequences of extractive multinational industries in Bangladesh, “while DFID and the World Bank clearly believe that the exploitation of the country’s gas and coal reserves by multinationals will lead to growth, and hence contribute to a reduction in poverty, [this is however far from guaranteed] for resource extraction invariably involves dispossessing large numbers of people from the land and profits are accumulated by the elite. Indeed, there is ample evidence that global capitalism has a habit of increasing inequality and hence exacerbating poverty.”

 PART II: ANTHROPOLOGY OF DEVELOPMENT

WHY DOES THE WEST PROMOTE ECONOMIC AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND IS THIS A FORM OF COLONIALISM?

 Even though European imperialism has been a thing of the past and most countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas have already gained independence, could current discussion on who is rich and who is poor, which countries are prosperous and which we should help develop, re-surface the colonial heritage of power and domination but in a different form? Why are developed nations and inter-governmental agencies such as the United Nations, pro-development? Are there alternative forms of development?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, development is “the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, etc.” (Hornby 2005:418). Development as a word in itself is a relatively recent addition to the English language. However, the idea of ‘progression’ is not a contemporary phenomenon. It has ancient roots (Rist 2008; Latouche 1996). For instance, in antiquity, the Romans, the Greeks, and their easternmost counterparts reflected on the advancement of their societies.

For some, the idea of development stemmed from the Enlightenment Period because during this era there were advances in scientific research and industrial production of materials. This led to a greater emphasis on scientific rational as opposed to religious and spiritual beliefs (Lewis 2005; Edelman and Haugerud 2005). Others would argue that modern development stemmed from WWII when European states lay in ruins, their governments with the help of America, pledged to “improve the material circumstances of their citizens” (Edelman and Haugerud 2005: 6). After the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, the role of development was to reduce world poverty. When U.S. President Harry S. Truman took office in 1945, he promised that the US would help reconstruct the ‘underdeveloped’ areas of the world, which included Asia, Africa, and Latin America by providing financial assistance as well as technological and scientific enterprise opportunities (Edelman and Haugerud 2005; Lewis 2005).

A consequence of development is social evolution and socio-cultural change. The Enlightenment gave birth to the idea that there is only one path to human progression. Social evolutionists at the height of the colonial period applied Darwin’s theory of evolution to human societies, arguing that the Africans, Asians, and the natives of the Americas, were ‘backward’. Hence, development is favoured. If a society is to develop, it has to leave ‘primitive’ practices, characterised by ‘impoverished’ traditional subsistence economy and tribal kinship rule in order to adapt the ‘modern’, ‘civilised’ and ‘advanced’ life, characterised by industry, capitalism, science, technology, and bureaucratic rule (Edelman and Haugerud 2005: 2; Ferguson 1994: 15). The hope is that societies shall transform from one end of the spectrum of human evolution to the other. Those who have not yet achieved this transition have to catch up with the industrially developed countries (Rist 2008: 9).

A primary reason for this is their subsistence, believed to be intrinsically linked to intellectual capacities. Agriculture is seen as a driver of civilisation and those whose subsistence does not depend on this – hunting-gathering-fishing and nomadism – are merely ‘starving’ as with the plight of the First Nations people in America to land claims and continuance of traditional life against the wider government and development companies (Asch and Wishart 2004; Diamond 1999; Murphy and Steward 1956). The barbarous ‘other’ was seen as still living under the mercy of nature. They were seen as incapable of managing or taming their own environments though it is not inherently true as, for instance, the aborigines of Australia burn forests to cultivate resources thereby investing in their labour (Diamond 1990; Pyne 1997). Colonialists thought that by mastering nature and environment, people could control it to their advantage hence becoming ‘civilised’. Social and environmental improvement is seen to improve and transform the people’s capabilities hence is considered the way forward.

Another aspect of development discourse is the idea that non-agricultural societies are on the verge of hunger, are living lazy lives and are ‘poor’. In his book, Stone Age Economics 1972, Sahlins, has put the food quest to the test. By doing fieldwork amongst the Bushmen of Africa, Sahlins noticed that the hunters were in fact intelligent, highly skilled and were not living on the edge of survival. They hunted what they needed and did not overkill. They did not place value on material possessions this was key to their affluence. On the constant move through seasons, accumulated ‘wealth’ was not necessary. They were in themselves not ‘poor’. Such people focus their energy on complex formations of their religion and kinship relationships. They have more leisure time attributed to spending more time with their families, forming bonds, and socialising. All needs are easily met, in contrast with a materialistic culture in which one accumulates more things but is not satisfied. This economic system and lifestyle was a problem for colonialists as it was anti-imperial. It was hard to subdue such peoples when tribes are living their own economic lives.

Who declares that a country is either ‘under-developed’ or ‘developed’? Who has the power to place countries into categories such as HICs, LEDCs? How is it decided when a country should graduate from ‘poor’ to ‘rich’ status? The economies of developed nations generally fluctuate, especially in the 21st century where economies are inter-connected. When the global economy crashed in 2008, developed nations were greatly affected. Governments had to cut expenditure and come up with legislation to boost economic development. Even though the developed world “declare [themselves] to be [as they are], they are [however] far from lacking interest in their own ‘development’” (Rist 2008: 4) they always want to advance themselves. Hence, if these categories signify something that is unsteady, unstable and dynamic, how do we best categorise nations? If these terminologies are so ambiguous having different implications, then why do we even use them?

In his book Orientalism (1978) Edward Said argues that the Orient was placed within the European experience of it, structuring the Occident within the myths of the Orient (ibid: 1). By attributing that the Orient is something that the West is not – geographically, religiously, and rationally – the subordination of the other was justified. This process is called ‘othering’ where societies exclude the different ‘other’ whom they want to subjugate. As Said wrote, “Europe is a collective notion identifying ‘us’ Europeans against all ‘those’ non Europeans… The hegemony of European ideas about the Orient reiterates European superiority over Oriental backwardness” (ibid: 7). The Orient was depicted as an inferior world, a place of backwardness, irrationality and wilderness. The West, however, identifies themselves as the opposite of such characteristics – progressive, rational, and civil. This stereotyping creates a binary division of the world between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (Said 1978). Although this process of ‘othering’ has been since antiquity in many forms, this is most relevant in development.

The process of ‘othering’ is central in development discourses. By defining affluent ‘us’ from poor ‘them’, we are reinforcing the disparity between cultures and societies. In discussions about global development, the United Nations, the World Bank, and other inter-governmental organisations defined the world into two categories. You are either in the ‘advance economy’ [also called ‘affluent nation, rich, Industrialised, developed, core, the North, the West, MEDC, and the First World’] or you are in a ‘less prosperous’ nation [also called ‘poor, Industrialising, developing, periphery, the South, the East, LEDC, and the Third World’]. According to Latouche (1996), these categories are convenient for one writing about the other.

“People struggle with categories. Categories make us feel comfortable because it’s how we make sense of things in our minds” – Grammy award winner Lecrae Moore (Reach Records n.b)

Methods of indicating the amount of progress nations achieve, rank countries of the world. Human development indicators are measured by standards of living (such as access to basic needs i.e. water, food, and shelter), life expectancy (health), education, and gender equality. These are to identify rates of child malnutrition and youth literacy for instance (Edelman and Haugerud 2005; Lewis 2005; Rist 2008; UNDP 2014; World Bank 2014). Economic growth is measured by the volume of a country’s output and household income (World Bank 2014). Its indicators are GDP, GNP, GNI, gross savings, government debt, inflation rate, etc. (ibid).

What this entails is that only one side of the story being told. Literacy was a tool to extend the sphere of influence and dominance during the colonial period. The literate were in control where written legislation was necessary in order for development projects to be carried out. In 1929, the British government issued a document to legalise British interest in their colonies. It aimed to promote, assist, authorise and encourage the improvement of “agriculture, [irrigation, cultivation] and industry” (ibid: 1). To achieve this, Britain provided advanced technologies. In 1974, a number of developing nations proposed a new economic trade agreement to promote their interests through the UNCTAD. It replaced the Bretton Woods system, which benefitted the leading countries whom introduced it. This document is called the Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order aimed at, supposedly, to give developing nations more freedom to control their natural resources, to improve terms of trade between developing and developed nations, to reduce export costs from developed countries, to enable developed nations to extend “assistance to developing countries” and promoting “the development of developing countries and the adequate flow of ‘real’ resources to them” (United Nations General Assembly 1974: 3).

In short, “Asia, Africa and Latin America can be defined as underdeveloped and that their communities are ineluctably in need of ‘development’” (Escobar 1997: 502). The way development aid is carried out is usually a one-way flow from North to South (see fig. 2). Whose history are we looking at? Are we looking through lens of the dominant power or the voiceless? With literacy being linked to power and authority, information is controlled. As treaties and contracts are made, people who are illiterate are often victims of exploitation. For example, people who cannot read or write would find it difficult to contest legal challenges such as land grabs.

Screen shot 2015-03-18 at 00.12.15

Fig. 2: One-way cultural flow of ideas in development projects adopted from the 1929 Colonial Development Act and the UN’s 1874 Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order. This suggests that the relationship is non-mutual where one benefits at the expense of the other.

When we consider the process of ‘othering’ in development discourse, according to anthropologists of international development such as David Mosse, Katy Gardner, James Ferguson, and Arturo Escobar, it sometimes implies the dichotomy between the exploiters versus the exploited.

As mentioned from Part I, development initiatives to increase economic growth, including extraction of natural resources and altering the environment, does not in the long term benefit the people whose resources are bound for generations. In Lesotho, farmers view livestock as ‘retirement fund’ and source of wealth and income when money is short. The World Bank, USAID, and the Lesotho government however viewed this as backward economic system, implementing schemes to increase livestock production and export to the world market. In this case, the development agencies used ‘poverty’ as a way to expand bureaucratic rule as opposed to alleviating their poverty conditions. “The purpose of a development project is to aid capitalist exploitation in a given country…by incorporating new territories into the world system, or working against radical social change, or bribing national elites… the implication is that any concrete aid program, be it any early 1960s ‘big dam’ project, late 1970s ‘basic needs’, or whatever, is explained almost by definition, by the ‘logic of capital’” (Ferguson 1994: 11).

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: VOLUNTOURISM

An example of development in action is ‘voluntourism’. This is when people from developed countries carry out voluntary work in developing countries. This has gained popularity especially among young people and carries a wide range of benefits for the volunteer such as cultural awareness and understanding of global diversity.

There are many organisations that specialise in this type of activity, both government-funded and not-for-profit. These include VSO, Progressio, Restless Development, DFID funded ICS and many charities. Activities range from tree planting and supporting community tourism projects in El Salvador to improving primary education materials for nomadic children in Nigeria, addressing gender inequality in India to promoting recycling and protecting the jungles of the Philippines. Strong marketing initiatives are used to generate interest in this industry. Eye catching advertising including phrases such as ‘challenge yourself to change your world’, ‘boost your resume or enhance your CV’, ‘help fight poverty abroad’, ‘work and travel in an exciting new country’, along side graphics which imply the experience is fun for the volunteer.

Although the intention is to assist ‘poverty stricken nations’, voluntourism has been widely criticised. Our portrayal of the ‘other’ is ethically and morally distorted. A Swedish group SAIH (2014) recently released a video on the Youtube website which voices concern at the stereotyping of people in developing countries for fundraising campaigns and charity marketing. In the video, after teaching children how to read in English, a Caucasian female is filmed taking ‘selfies’ (self portrait taken with a digital camera, smartphone, tablet, laptop or other electronic device to be posted on social networking sites) with the children.

A journalist writing on U.S. foreign policy, is one of the first critics to respond, (Jose 2014) wrote, “a white, blond girl jumps out with high-calorie food in hand, dressed in a white tank top, shorts and a stylish bandanna. She runs toward an unknown destination and does what every good volunteer does: starts hurling food at hungry mouths. There is nothing wrong with the humanitarian impulse…. But as the SAIH video shows, this aid often comes in the form of activities that make little difference or misunderstands the cultural context in which it operates. There are ways to make a difference abroad. But snapping selfies with orphans isn’t one of them.”

Many undertake voluntourim because they are awarded “with a sociocultural badge of honour” (Jose 2014). Voluntourists are usually commended and are regarded highly in their own society because “they have chosen hardship and have survived”, according to Zakira (2014), a political philosopher. “There is a sense of glorification and sense of heroism… whereas working in community projects locally, people are not as enthusiastic” (cited in Herrman 2015, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker). Moreover, the experience gained gives them advantage over other job applicants. Therefore, the volunteer is benefiting, “as opposed to the recipient community’s actual needs” (Zakira 2014). Also, “other people’s problems seem simpler, uncomplicated and easier to solve than those of one’s own society. In this context, the decontextualized hunger and homelessness in Haiti, Cambodia or Vietnam is an easy moral choice. In simple terms, the lack of knowledge of other cultures makes them easier to help.”(ibid).

In her documentary film Framed (pending release date), Herrman sets out on a quest to find the motivations behind the West’s fascination with saving Africa and the rest of the developing world. America is the biggest exporter of voluntourists to Africa. About a million Americans volunteer abroad every year and this “has become almost a rite of passage for Americans, particularly students” Herrman (2015). But why look to far-flung places when problems closer to home are similar to that in Africa? Issues like racism, hunger, child poverty, and homelessness can be found in America. In the short extract of the video, Kenyan photojournalist and activist Boniface Mwangi asks ‘why help us when your own country needs help’ (paraphrased) to high school and university students alike who are enrolled in international volunteer programs elsewhere in the world in order to challenge established images and myths of developing nations. ‘Start local before going international’ (paraphrased) (ibid).

SAIH produced other videos regarding development aid. In one satirical video, Radi-Aid Warmth for Xmas (2014), the tables have been turned around. Here, instead of an affluent country generating public empathy on starving Africans, they portrayed Norwegians as living in poverty. At the end of the video, we see an African ambassador giving aid to the Norwegians. “Imagine if every person in Africa saw [the video] and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?“ (Africa for Norway n.b.) (see fig. ).

Western charities and NGOs use professional filmography, photography, and the media to win people’s support for an unquestionably good cause. However, in doing so, we produce generalisations thereby promoting prejudicial stereotypes (Zakira 2014). Going back the film Framed, Western portrayal of the ‘other’ unfortunately creates difference and divides people. We are fabricating power construction in which a people is perceived better off over weaker others (Herrman and Mathers 2014). This is referred to as ‘poverty porn’, ‘famine porn’, or ‘development porn’ coined by Matt (2009), a research fellow at the Centre for Global Development Europe and Centre for African Economies at the University of Oxford. In his blog Aid Thoughts, he defines this as “any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause…” (ibid). We are thus ‘exploiting’ them to achieve universal ideals of basic human rights.

Matt (2009) states, “the argument that the poor are completely incapable of rescuing themselves, either at the micro or at the country-level, removes all respect for their own agency and cultivates a culture of paternalism”. This ‘culture of paternalism’ is what Cole (2010), a writer and historian, describes as the ‘White-Saviour Industrial Complex’ in which the people of Europe consider themselves able to effect good change for the rest. A Ugandan journalist argues, in response to a worldwide campaign to overthrow a rebel leader in Uganda, it seems “the power lies in America and it does not lie with my government, it does not lie with local initiatives on the ground. I have a problem with that because it is the same narrative we have seen about Africa for centuries” (Kagumire 2012). Advocacy and humanitarian impulse has been turned into something that reinforces geo-political power structures and establishes a relationship of that of a ‘saviour and a victim’ rather than as of human compatriots, according to associate sociology professor Zine Magubane from Harvard University (Herrman and Mathers 2014).

In his book The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (2006) Easterly argues that sending billions of dollars of aid to developing nations does not simply make poverty disappear or make situations better. The ‘planners’ “try to design the ideal aid agencies, administrative plans, and financial resources that will do the job… they keep pouring resources into a fixed objective, despite many previous failures at reaching that objective…. They escalate the scope of intervention when previous intervention fails. They fail to search for what does work to help the poor” (ibid: 10-11). Developed nations may not take it into consideration that that developing nations are capable of helping themselves and that they are not waiting passively for the West to save them (ibid: 23). In short, development aid does not always consider the local context and situational needs of its recipients.

No matter how much development aid affluent nations pump into other countries, poverty cannot be eliminated and ‘development’ cannot be achieved (Rogoff 2014). We can’t make a lasting difference in poverty reduction and economic and human development because our aid efforts do get to the source of the problem – internal conflict, despotism and the effects of Western imperialism on the people, the environment, and their economies (ibid). Bolton (2007), a diplomat and aid worker working in Africa for DFID, argues that the West sometimes does not consider that it took themselves a gradual process of social change through years of civil unrest, Enlightenment, and two World Wars to reach their development. By telling the ‘rest’ to comply with United Nations standards of human rights and development, we are imposing our values again as we did centuries ago. This ‘interventionist attitude’ causes further inequality in our world as we actually make the rest dependent on us (Easterly 2006).

Institutions such as the UN and governments of developed nations, are inherently grooming the Third World to think themselves inferior. Most people in the Third World, desire the power of ex-colonisers because of the perceived ‘greatness’ of the European entity. “This attack on self-image furthers exploitation” (Latouche 1996: 19). The presence of European volunteers in these places re-emphasise this ‘greatness’. As a result, locals admire the knowledge and technology that the West brings to their country. Foucault (1977) reveals how institutions condition the mentalities of people to follow institutional guidelines. In development, this is effective in keeping former colonies in line with the West. This negative manipulation imposes fear on people to make them adopt international economic guidelines and human rights. Fear of the West’s power triggers others to obey the rules of the dominant power.

In addition to the questions I sent out to my Filipino friends, I sent another batch of questions to find out if the ordinary person is aware of ethnocentrism in development. I chose a few people who specifically pointed out that Philippines should become like the West in many aspects. The questions are as follows: (1) why are developed nations models of ‘progress’? (2) What is ‘progress’? (3) Are you aware that there may be ethnocentrism or Eurocentrism in modern human and economic development? (4) If development is defined in ethnocentric terms such as linear progression in human evolution, then would you say this is neo-colonialism? (5) What is ‘poverty’? (6) What is important in life? Do you agree with the MDGs?

The responses are as follows: (1) ‘developed countries have a function model that is successful. Are people in developing countries going to learn this?’, ‘developed countries all started from scratch but they have the right mind-set, attitude, culture, and philosophy to bring them forward’, ‘they are the only available model of progress as the opposite of this is under-developed or undeveloped. You don’t want a Third World country to be a model of development’. (2) Most responded in a way that indicated progress is a linear evolution, arguing that ‘progress measures the difference between the beginning and the end product’, ‘it means improvement’, it means ‘a movement forward not backward’ and it means ‘higher GNP, more job opportunities, less unemployment rate’. (3) Most left this blank, one person said ‘yes’, one uttered ‘nope, I have never heard of it’, and one argued that human and economic development is not race related but that it is influenced by ideology and religion. (But whose ideology are we talking about? Cultural ideologies?) (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

(4) Most argued that colonialism is non existent today not knowing the arguments put forward on this paper about the ‘othering’, homogenized idea of ‘poverty’ and ‘affluence’, and unequal power relations partly driven by the literate, educated elite. One argues, ‘what is colonialism anyway? Influence from a developed country does not equal colonialism’, ‘at this era of World History, the thought of western domination is an antiquated idea’ and one person said ‘this is not new’. (5) Most conceded to the universal idea of what ‘poor’ is and that is ‘living below the minimum wage and who are not making a good living’, ‘it means lack of many things including money and resources’, it means ‘living below the standard where one does not enjoy basic needs’, people who live a ‘lifestyle of laziness’ and ‘improper use of finances’. (6) Most argued that the most important things in life are food, shelter, health, and family and the other two are finances and education. (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

The question I want to leave with you is, in a capitalist system where everything is commoditised and in a world that emphasises on accumulation of wealth and consumerism, how can we put these important aspects first? Money has been central to our social and economic activities affecting our relations with each other and with our planet. According to Jondai, a farmer and founder of an organic farm in Northeast Thailand ‘Pun Pun Centre for Self-reliance’, we make life very difficult though it should be easy (Tedx Talks 2011). We make everyone work hard, to be more educated so that we can get jobs yet we eat poorly, disregarding our health for monetary gains. “The birds make a nest in one or two days, the rats dig a hole in one night but the clever humans like us spend thirty years to have a house. Why do we destroy our strength, why do we destroy our ability that much?” (ibid). Farmers are being told that they are ‘poor’ so they can move to cities working and studying for many hours. “I start to look at the subjects and every faculty has destructive knowledge. There’s no productive knowledge in university for me [at least for rural farmers]. To be an engineer and agriculturalist is to destroy the environment. The good land and mountains will be covered in concrete more and more. You learn how to poison the land, the water, and learn to destroy everything” (ibid).

Jondai argues that 30-40 years ago, “everybody worked only two months a year. Planting rice in one month and harvesting rice in another. The rest is free time, ten months of free time. During the day everyone can take a nap. Because of this, they have a lot of time to be with themselves, and when they have time to be with themselves they have time to understand themselves. When they understand themselves they can see what they want in their lives. As a consequence, people see beauty and love in life. They express this by carving the handle of their knife and weaving baskets nicely. But now, nobody can do this. People use plastic everywhere… we are so reliant on money, for food, for health, etc. But to make life easy, we need to come back to ourselves, to connect to ourselves again and to connect to other people. Food, housing, clothes and medicine must be accessible for people. That’s civilisation. But if you make things hard for people to get these four basic needs, that’s uncivilised. I feel like now is the most uncivilised era of humans on this Earth. We have so many people who finish university, have so many universities on the earth, have so many clever people but our life is harder and harder. In schools, we were taught to make life complicated. We make it hard for whom? We work hard for whom right now? This is not normal. Let’s come back to our senses and be inspired by the animals around us. So I stopped living in the abnormal way and start living normally but people look at me as abnormal” (TedxTalks 2011).

This is a voice that many from marginalised communities, including indigenous groups in developing nations are cohesive with. Examples are Michael Tausig (1977)’s fieldwork amongst South American peasantry and Aihwa Ong (1988)’s fieldwork amongst the orang-asli of Malaysia during the advent of the capitalist system in the 1970s and 1980s and Ash and Wishart (2004)’s ethno-historical study of the plight of Slavey Indians against the construction of a pipeline by CAGPL.

Colonialism is the process of establishing, maintaining and expanding influence over another place or people. New territories are claimed by sovereign powers through mercantilism and missionary actions. Colonialism is partly driven by economics in that Europeans who need raw materials set out to discover places rich in resources. Through their ‘advanced technologies’ and ‘rational ideals’ they took advantage of the environment and people. Those who lived in the land for many generations, centuries, or thousands of years were forced to leave or be killed as they were considered to be hindering civilisation. Their version of history is often ignored and denied. Is development any different?

For Serge Latouche (1996:20), a French emeritus professor in political science and economy, “development meant aspiring to the Western model of consumption, the magical power of the whiteman, [to develop is to be] in communication with the religion of science and revering technology – but also demanding Westernisation on one’s own account, so as to become more Westernised (Latouche 1996: 20). The West has already taken over the world in so many different aspects making its mark in world history permanently. For instance, adoption to a unified time-zone system, the Gregorian calendric system, constructing infrastructure, exporting and importing resources on an industrial scale, “forests exploited, deserts re-afforested, high-yield plants, use of technology, establishment of factories, and wage-jobs.” (Rist 2008: 11).

“It seems that in both theory and practice, development is nothing but the sequel of colonisation, a new and more radical kind of Westernisation.” (Latouche 1996)

 

CONCLUSION

This paper has set out to understand why many in the Third World want to become like the West in many aspects with particular focus on the Filipino story. I found that not many is aware of ethnocentricism in development, arguing that colonialism is a thing of the past and that we are all ‘civilised’ in today’s world. They perceive economic growth and human development as ‘progress’. Surely there is not a sole way to progress, certainly not a linear one in human evolution. Their responses are in geared towards a Westernisation of the Philippines. They do not know that ‘poverty’ and ‘affluence’ is culturally relevant and that one can have less or live in so called ‘poor’ conditions but still live a happy and satisfied life. Poverty and affluence has been universally measured through financial means but this is not usually the case for minorities and indigenous communities throughout the world whose satisfaction lay in their own life-ways and world-views.

We have seen that inequality between the rich and the poor increase with international development. The Philippines is an example of a developing nation struggling to meet the expectation of developed nations and the international standard set by the United Nations, the World Bank, etc. The lack of employment opportunities despite many graduate with exceptional grades keeps poverty going as opposed to curing it. Education, foreign investment, and businesses are not the only paths to a successful life. As Jondai has proven, it makes life so hard when it shouldn’t be. Mainstream education breed people to be dependent on monetary terms for food, shelter, and health as opposed to training people to be self-reliant, including growing their own foods and building their houses with neighbours or close relatives. Everything has been centralised and basic needs are controlled in the industrial society. Even though factory farming is supposedly to feed large-scale societies, lack of money meant starvation, driving people to commit atrocious actions.

Escobar, Gardner, Ferguson, and Latouche contend that extending the capitalist economic system to the rest is committing cultural genocide hence, this is no different from previous colonialism but an extension of it. The United Nations and developed countries are forefront to global development however their ethnocentric and Eurocentric ideals are not the means on its end. They are regarded as models of progress because of hundreds of years in grooming the rest to think that way. This process of ‘othering’ is significant in understanding unequal power relations and geo-political power structures in our world where it may be invisible for the layman. Can we allow other people to develop in their own terms? If not then we are embarking in a world that is becoming more homogenised and Europeanised ideologically (scientific rationale and universal human rights) and technologically.

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Benefits of both anthropological and historical methods

What are the benefits of using both anthropological and historical methods when trying to understand the lives of people in the past? 

In order to answer this, one must first understand the aims of anthropological and historical disciplines and then go on to identifying their research methods. Once research methods are identified, the concept of ethnohistory, as a field of inquiry, would be addressed and will help understand what really had happened in the past and how it might have effects to the present dynamics.

Anthropology, in simple terms, is the comparative study of humans (Kottak 2002: 4, 11; Keesing and Strathern 1998: 2; Strang 2009: 1-2; Oxford Dictionaries Online 2012). They investigate every aspect of human life and what makes a particular ‘human being’. Hence, they are concerned with people’s behaviors, worldviews, and lifeways, more specifically, they are amused to learn about other cultures, languages, apprehension of kinship, the notion of personhood, gender, groups’ “interaction with each other and the material environment” (Strang 2009: 2) and much more.  Fundamentally, anthropology, with its aim to study human societies and cultures, “describes, analyzes, interprets, and explains” the complexities of human life. With this being said, ethnography, being the key research tool, was developed (Kottak 2002: 11; Strang 2009: 2).

There are many different ethnographic field techniques however, participant-observation is one method that sets anthropology apart from other disciplines (Kottak 2002: 35). Anthropologists are expected to live with the informants, participate in their daily lives and activities, observe their “behavior, beliefs, customs, social life, economic activities, and politics” (Kottak 2002: 11), and finally, learn the language (Bernard 2006: 344-345; Ellen 1984: 49; Kottak 2002: 33, 50; Johnson 1978: 9; Strang 2002: 5;). The advantages of ethnography is (1) to enable the collection of meticulous detail of the informant’s aspect of culture and of the research focus,  (2) to immerse themselves with the people in order to be able to study every detail of their lives, culture and customs in concrete detail (Ellen 1984: 21) though one cannot really write objectively, a hundred percent (Johnson 1978: 22).  Most importantly, ethnography, “is the main anthropological means to counter ethnocentricism” (Johnson 1978: 9) and eurocentricism (Ellen 1984: 36).

History, on the other hand, is the study of the human past (Jordanova  2002: 1; Oxford Dictionaries Online 2012). The development of both anthropology and history, as disciplines, comprises of shifts of thought, theories and beliefs of key contributors to the disciplines (Ellen 1984; Foster, Scudder, Colson, and Kemper 1979; Johnson 1978; Urry 1993). With this being said, history’s research method, initially, relied heavily on documents, which, were in other words, pretty Eurocentric and ethnocentric that tends to eliminate insignificant people, such as indigenous people and peasants (Thomson 1969: 18), into the story. “No documents, no history’, was the doctrine” (Thomson 1969: 17-18). Today, however, history incorporates wide range of methodological means to interpret the past. Such examples are incorporating oral history and archaeology (Jordanova 2002: 30; 49). Similarly, until the advent of ethnohistory, anthropology did not incorporate the study of their informant’s histories because of this very fact that documents were regarded as written mostly by eurocentric and ethnocentric colonialists. Evans-Pritchard was one of the main anthropologists who tackled the disciplinary divide between history and anthropology. He argued that “there is an overlap of relevance between them and each can learn much from the other” (Evans-Pritchard 1962: 62) and that “history and anthropology are indissociables” (Evans-Pritchard 1962: 65).

Today, both disciplines incorporate, in one way or the other, the methodologies of the other to understand the lives of the people. Imagine the immense analysis and information we can attain when we combine both anthropological and historical methods. We will have a better understanding of present dynamics since the present is just merely the continuation of the past. This leads to the development of ethnohistory.

Ethnohistory, is a field of enquiry that is a combination of both ethnographic and historical methods, however, as any other disciplines/field of enquiry, it is quite “distinct from the… interests of both history and anthropology” (Morantz 1998: 72; Johnson 1978: 22). It was developed after World War II, particularly in the 1950s and initially “an attempt to write the history of Native Peoples in North America” however, as stated earlier with the development of anthropology and history as disciplines, ethnohistory now includes the study of other people outside North America (Morantz 1998: 59, 72). Ethnohistory was established to make sense the history of the First Nations people in North America in attempt to improve relations between the ‘white’ settlers and the natives in post WWII era. No other case study can better illustrate this than Asch’s ethnohistoric monograph about Slavey Indians and pipe development outlined in the next paragraph.

In the 1970s, Canadian Arctic Gas Pipeline Ltd (CAGPL) proposed to construct a pipeline that will pass through the North West Coast of North America, which are the homes of the Dene and Inuvialuit Indians (Asch 2004: 178). Asch used the methods of ethnohistory to provide an insight different from the inquiries the Canadian government issued through the pipeline company. His main aim was to partly analyze why the Indians want “a regime protective of their traditional way of life and controlled by them should be in place” (Asch 2004: 180) and to analyze the socio-economic impact of the proposed pipeline. With this in mind, he divided his analysis in three sections: (1) description of the native economic history, which is further divided into three components: native economy prior to European trade, native economy with interaction with European fur trade, and post interaction; (2) description of the current situation and lastly (3) the evaluation of so called ‘solutions’ to the socio-economic impact proposed by the CAGPL studies (Asch 2004: 180). The first and second points are detailed description of the evolvement of the native economy and lifeways with the advent of further Western influence in the region while the last point assesses the extent of so called ‘solutions’ will be of a resolution. Indian natives prior to further Western influence in the turn of the twentieth century, distribute resources amongst others through reciprocity and mutual sharing (Asch 2004: 182), which operated through the concept of kinship and marriage that linked all people in a single social unit, into individualization of resources when the government implemented wage labour (Asch 2004: 186 -187). This is one aspect of their culture that has changed.

Another example, would be that native children were forced from the bush into schools the whole year round, in order to supplement development in the region by recruiting graduate natives (Asch 2004: 186). Native people really did not have any choice but to send their children to the outposts where they will get education. This is because of the economic downturn in the early and middle twentieth century, for example, the shadows of both world wars and the Great Depression. The government of Canada initiated ‘support’ by implementing financial initiative provided the fact that they comply with their conditions. Consequently, there was little wealth differentiation before Western agency in the region; however, the introduction of welfare widened the gap between the  rich and poor. This “undermined the values of the collective responsibility that is part of the reciprocal economy… welfare represents a social intrusion… like education, it creates a perfidious influence on the native people to change their values” (Asch 2004: 190).

Finally, there was an immense shift from relying on local resources and the environment to relying on the wider Western economy (Asch 2004: 186). Such examples exemplify the following concluding points. “Government policies introduced during the past forty years have… created fundamental change in aspects of economic organization pertaining to the size and composition of the self-sufficient economic units, mobility, and travel… and contact with the bush on the part of the younger generation”. With relation to the pipeline proposal, according to Asch (2004:191), (note: the following quotes below are self explanatory into understanding the situation)

(1)   “The proposals regarding the pipeline were strikingly similar to the bargain proposed by the fur traders: immediate material well-being in return for long-term dependency”  

(2)   “Just as the fur trade’s viability depended on the availability of furs and a high world market price… so the viability of the petroleum development will depend on the availability of oil and a high world market price… the petroleum corporations, just like the fur traders before them, will pull out [if worse comes to worse]. They must leave if [the area] becomes uneconomic and of course, that day will inevitably come”

Therefore, Asch concluded that, “it is necessary that native people have effective control over northern development, for only then can they decide which developments are in their own interests and provide safeguards to ensure that those aspects of their traditional economy they wish to maintain remain viable” Asch (2004:192).

In essence, anthropology without history is merely freezing people in the present, disregarding the initiatives that would have caused the present dynamics to be. History without participating in the lives of the people for a long period of time will not gain an emic perspective and will retain ethnocentric biased views. When both research methods amalgamate, then one would produce a research result that would be revered. From the case study above, it can be seen that the perspective of native Indians concerning the development of the pipeline would not have been achieved if not the ethnographer had lived and stayed with the people in a long term, combining document histories and oral histories to present a facet different from governmental survey. Had not Asch did his ethnohistoric research, one would not know the other side of the story and merely imposing ‘white’ man’s values into the natives. Lastly, it is important to acknowledge that the present is wholly an extension of the past and by understanding the past through historic and ethnographic means, one would better comprehend present informants.

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This essay earn CAS 18/20. If you think that there are points to be improved or something just comment bellow. Thank you much for reading.

What are your thoughts on ethnohistory?