Untethered critical sensibilities in development studies (16962)
In this paper I explore what might constitute ‘the critical’ or ‘critique’ in the doing of academic work in the field of development. Focusing on debates in the social sciences, and geography in particular, I trace how those involved in these discussions carve out their particular understandings and justifications for their ‘critical’ work or the critical purchase to be gained from it. Drawing on Foucault, Hardt, Latour, Ferguson, Gibson-Graham and others, I attempt to foreground what these debates and justifications might mean for ‘critical’ development geography.
Ferguson (2009, p. 167), for instance, bemoaning the inevitabilities of what he calls ‘denunciatory analyses’, suggests we need to focus on ‘what we want’ rather than ‘what are we against’. In a similar way, Gibson-Graham (2008, p. 620) calls for ‘an ontological reframing’ to produce grounds of possibility. And of course, there are the more established ‘critical standpoints’ that urge a return to the normative in development (Olsen and Sayer, 2009, p. 180). The aim of this paper is to argue for an untethered critical sensibility; one that enables and encourages theoretical heterogeneity and myriad engagements and enactments in the doing of academic work.