A Holistic Study on Hegemonic Foreign Aid and Civil Society’s Fragility in Bangladesh

By Matt M. Husain.

Published by The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: August 18, 2015 $US5.00

Building on more than 6 years of professional tenure at the World Bank’s Result Measurement Unit, my multi-sited ethnography based research asks why Western “development aid” appears to benefit aid facilitators and donors rather than empowering marginalized and ethnic minority aid recipients in developing countries, such as Bangladesh. Applying World-systems (Wallerstein 1974), labour theory, cultural feminism, human agency, social movements, and globalization theories to Bangladeshi political and social contexts, my paper argues that development assistance measures and their hegemonic enforcement exploit weak governance and power mechanisms (Gramsci 1971). Applying post-colonial theories helps to understand the factors that obstruct space for multiple voices and indicates that the “logic” of colonialism is active in designing poverty reduction projects in Bangladesh. These projects in the form of neo-liberal measures can exploit marginalized Bangladeshis by legitimizing new markets and globalization (Harvey 2005; Spivak 1995). The local civil society, which can and should influence aid’s accountability and transparency, often remains as a victim of hegemonic power mechanisms instead. Thus they continue to be fractured and ineffective to influence decision making (Eaton 1996; Springer 2010). They, like the rest in post independent Bangladesh, remain as mere consumers and are kept distracted, which I term as “civil circus” (Husain n.d.). This vacuum tends to benefit the international aid donors to flock in Bangladesh; and enforce the local aid professionals and recipients to comply with prescriptive clauses, decisions, and rules in order that aid funds return to the donor country, through commodity and knowledge transfers. I term such a convenient space for aid donors as “donor paradise” (Husain n.d.). These donors keep the local elites content at the expense of local culture and development (Bhabha 2004; Chatterjee 1993; Guha 1997).

Keywords: Civil Circus, Donor Paradise, Poverty Reduction

The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies, Volume 13, Issue 4, December 2015, pp.51-63. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: August 18, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 339.328KB)).

Matt M. Husain

Doctoral Candidate in Anthropology of Development, Department of Community, Culture and Global Studies (C.C.G.S.), University of British Columbia, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada