Doing development and being Gurage : the embeddedness of development in Sebat Bet Gurage identities

Henry, Leroi Wendel (2002). Doing development and being Gurage : the embeddedness of development in Sebat Bet Gurage identities. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e344

Abstract

This thesis aims to contribute towards an understanding of the relationship between ethnicity and development in Africa. I examine the complex relationship between ethnicity and communal action in the Gurage People's Self-help and Development and Organisation (GPSDO), a federation of ethnically based Development Associations in Ethiopia. I investigate the extent to which concepts such as participation and accountability, used by dominant development discourses to analyse the relationship between development agencies and their beneficiaries, are applicable to ethnically based indigenous development associations. These discourses are juxtaposed with the ways that the development associations, their stakeholders and beneficiaries conceptualise their relationships and the processes and purposes of development. In this thesis, I argue the trusteeship constructed between indigenous ethnically based development associations and their beneficiary communities is underpinned by indigenous perceptions of civic virtue, the rights and obligations inherent in notions of ethnic citizenship. Although concepts such as, participation and accountability are used in Gurage development discourses, their meanings are related to the values and practices embedded in Gurage notions of citizenship. I argue that to understand the relationship between indigenous ethnically based development associations and their beneficiaries, one must first analyse the complex web of rights and obligations that are embedded in their perceptions of what it means to be a good citizen. I argue that ethnicity can act as a resource to be harnessed for development purposes and that the contested values embedded in Gurage ethnic identities act as a point of reference in the construction of trusteeship between GPSDO and its beneficiaries. Furthermore, for Gurages, the processes of development are part of the formation of civic virtue and thus, central to the construction of their ethnic identities.

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