School of Social and Political Sciences - Theses
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Capturing Agency: Developmentalism and NGO Community Development Practitioners in Tanzania
This thesis explores the perceptions and experiences of individual agency within the context of international development practice. Given that development is primarily concerned with social change the issue of how agency is enabled, fostered or constrained should be a central tenet of work. And yet, as highlighted in this thesis, the perceptions, experiences and nuances of individual agency are set against the epistemic, ideological and institutional pillars of international development, articulated as developmentalism, that create a dominant structure within which agency is constructed and constrained. The tensions between the conceptualisations and articulations of agency are particularly notable in the last few decades with the hegemonic hold of the neoliberal paradigm of development. Neoliberal development ideology manifests in institutional discourse and practice, and the epistemic enclaves of expertise and managerialist culture constrain the potentiality of agency of development practitioners, particularly those engaging at the level of the locality, or ‘community’ context. The thesis draws on fieldwork conducted over a period of three years with seventeen community development practitioners based in three program offices of an international NGO, Plan International, in Tanzania. It delves into the epistemic and spatial domains of international development. Through a combination of discourse analysis, semi-structured interviews and participant observation, the analysis of the data deploys discursive theoretical frameworks to explore how developmentalist discourse and institutionalisation influence and frame the identity and practice of community development practitioners within the Tanzanian context and the implications for understanding individual agency in the construct of the community development practitioner as distinct from the development professional. The research provides a study of an under-researched category of practitioners that enriches an understanding of local development context and practice. This thesis posits that community development practice in Tanzania is performative, but that in the Butlerian concept of performativity there is scope for individual agency through influencing the process of resignification that reconstitutes the actor’s identity in the process of performativity. By framing the discursive and institutional context for community development practitioners as dominant, as opposed to deterministic, structure the thesis proposes that potentiality for agency lies in the process of reconstitution of identity through the reiterative process of performativity. Accordingly, this research both highlights the consequences for practitioners of an uncritical imposition of developmentalism in institutional discourse and practice and also offers international development agencies the opportunity to reconsider their approach to community development practice.
Does the policy fit the crime? Government responses to high-profile offending
In recent years, whenever a significant violent or sexual crime was committed in Victoria and newspapers were overt in their criticism of the government, there was an immediate political reaction. For particularly high-profile crimes this, on occasion, included changing criminal justice legislation. This created the impression that Victorian newspapers, but the Herald Sun in particular, could effectively influence the government whenever such crimes were committed. This thesis focused on asking: to what extent did newspaper reporting influence legislative and policy changes? In order to answer this, the author selected four criminal cases which all resulted in a significant legislative change. The cases of Garry David, Julian Knight, Brian Keith Jones and Adrian Bayley provided the necessary foundation from which the question could be interrogated. A mixed methods approach was adopted incorporating case studies, content analysis and interviews. The data that was generated as a result revealed the changing importance of victims in criminal justice debates, the power of the Herald Sun and the covert influence that the Police Association of Victoria has over legislative change. The findings of this research are important because they provide some unique insights into the interaction of the key actors in the Victorian criminal justice system. While the confirmation that the media will often agitate for legislative change in the aftermath of a high-profile crime was not unexpected, this research also found instances of media outlets manipulating, misrepresenting and not acting as true arbiters of public opinion. In addition, the finding that the Police Association of Victoria holds significant power over politicians in relation to criminal justice matters is revelatory because it suggests that the Association may well be the most influential actor in the criminal justice system. Finally, it was found that politicians continue to believe that newspapers are powerful conduits between themselves, their governments and the community, thus ensuring that newspapers maintain the power to influence criminal justice legislation.
Witch Camps in Northern Ghana: Contesting Gender, Development and Culture
This thesis examines the intersection between witchcraft and socio-economic development in Ghana. Scholars note that there has been an increase in witchcraft beliefs, practices and accusations in a number of post-colonial societies such as Ghana. This presents many challenges for how socio-economic development and modernity are understood and approached. The use of witchcraft to navigate, enhance and protect individual socio-economic circumstances is well-noted by many scholars not only in relation to Ghana but also a number of other societies, especially in parts of Africa. Debates in Ghana centre on cases of encampment of individuals, primarily women, who are accused of witchcraft. The thesis is based on an extended period of fieldwork in northern Ghana and the analysis of secondary data, including government reports and media accounts to highlight the divergent views and tensions associated with the so-called ‘witch camps’. The primary data collected involved participant observation during fieldwork in the Gnani witch camp, interviews with community members, staff of non-government organisations involved in providing services to camp communities and a number of government officials who are engaged at the local level with the camps. This thesis aims to provide a nuanced account of the divergent views of witchcraft and witchcraft accusations, as well as paying significant attention is also paid to the lived experiences of encamped women. Women, most of whom are elderly and poor, are disproportionately accused of practicing witchcraft and compelled to reside in witch camps due to ostracism, livelihood insecurity and in some cases threat to life. Understanding their life circumstances is especially important for highlighting the ways in which gender, age, socio-economic development, kinship and social relationships are implicated in witchcraft accusations. Overall, this thesis highlights the tensions between local realities and standardised development approaches that nominally include culture in their planning but ultimately view it as a barrier to development. The thesis argues for a rethinking of approaches to development that do not fully take into account the potential of culturally specific solutions to social inequalities. It also contributes to a better understanding of the limits associated with the neo-liberal paradigm of socio-economic development that is overwhelmingly promoted by government, NGOs, and external development actors and whereby local realities, experiences and understandings of development are rarely taken into consideration.
Populism without ‘the people’: A discourse analysis of the 2016 EU referendum
The EU referendum of 2016 is commonly defined as a populist event. This is a misinterpretation. Current scholarship conceptualises populism as a thin ideology, discourse, or performative repertoire that pits ‘the people’ against ‘the elite’. This thesis argues that none of these features actually apply to the EU referendum. Brexit arose from an elite-defined process featuring an elite-controlled debate. Far from a populist irruption, the EU referendum endorsed a particular type of anti-populism. Anti-populism can bluntly state its distaste of populism and attempt to dissolve ‘the people’. Equally, though, it can manifest as a phenomenon this thesis terms populism without ‘the people’ – a discourse that employs a similar political style to authentic populism but follows the political logic of anti-populism. Discourse analysis of Vote Leave and Stronger In – the two official campaign organisations set up to contest the referendum – reveals that both engaged in anti-populist performances. Stronger In deployed anti-populist rhetoric that depicted leaving the EU as dangerous, oversimplified, and likely to inaugurate a crisis in British life. Vote Leave’s discourse, however, while meeting all the stylistic criteria for populism, also aimed at dissolving ‘the people’ and further empowering the governing elites of the British state. This thesis therefore posits that Vote Leave played the role of a sophisticated anti-populist force. The EU referendum demonstrates why populist theory needs to incorporate praxis into the definition of populism. The referendum was not a populist/anti-populist struggle, but an anti-populist broadcast presented in two different registers of sophistication. The voter’s constituent power remained the same regardless which portion of the governing elite ‘won’. This thesis concludes that populism needs to be reconceptualised as a discourse that is committed to democratic augmentation. Specifically, the solutions offered by populists must in some way enhance the constituent power of ‘the people’ in relation to ‘the elite’. If a political movement is not proposing to enhance the constituent power of ‘the people’ then it is anti-populist regardless of the style it adopts.
Seeking the state from the margins: From Tidung Lands to borderlands in Borneo
Scholarship on the geographic margins of the state has long suggested that life in such spaces threatens national state-building by transgressing state order. Recently, however, scholars have begun to nuance this view by exploring how marginal peoples often embrace the nation and the state. In this thesis, I bridge these two approaches by exploring how borderland peoples, as exemplars of marginal peoples, seek the state from the margins. I explore this issue by presenting the first extended ethnography of the cross-border ethnic Tidung and neighbouring peoples in the Tidung Lands of northeast Borneo, complementing long-term fieldwork with research in Dutch and British archives. This region, lying at the interstices of Indonesian Kalimantan, Malaysian Sabah and the Southern Philippines, is an ideal site from which to study borderland dynamics and how people have come to seek the state. I analyse understandings of the state, and practical consequences of those understandings in the lives and thought of people in the Tidung Lands. I argue that people who imagine themselves as occupying a marginal place in the national order of things often seek to deepen, rather than resist, relations with the nation-states to which they are marginal. The core contribution of the thesis consists in drawing empirical and theoretical attention to the under-researched issue of seeking the state and thereby encouraging further inquiry into this issue. I elaborate my findings along a trajectory consisting of two broad parts. First, the entrenchment of the border in the social life of the region. I show that the question of the state is inextricable from the question of what it is to be Tidung. I suggest that for many contemporary Tidung people, the transition to a national political order has come to be considered the most preferable among several plausible alternatives. People have sought to establish positive relations with the nation-states within which they live on either side of the state-drawn border, in the absence of an impetus from their respective central governments. They increasingly acquiesce to the circumscription of their mobility and social lives by the international border. Secondly, life in the light of this national division. I demonstrate that Tidung engagements with Dayak identity in Kalimantan index a shift toward exclusively Indonesian registers of ethnic identification; conversely, Tidung engagements with Malay identity in Sabah index a shift toward exclusively Sabahan registers of ethnic identification. I elaborate on this national division by analysing vernacular understandings of transboundary floods, which function as a commentary on international asymmetry from the borderland. Finally, I examine a recent campaign for a new autonomous district in Kalimantan (Indonesia), suggesting that the latter indexes the point at which borderland transgression becomes a resource for national integration such that vernacular and central political projects converge.
Preserving Turkishness in the daily life of Broadmeadows
This dissertation investigates how Turks endeavour to preserve their cultural identity while living in Australia. Based on research carried out between 2013 and 2017 in Broadmeadows, a suburb of Melbourne and historic centre for the resettlement of Turkish immigrants, the dissertation explores a number of themes which frame each chapter: nostalgia for the homeland and for the earlier times of arrival; overseas marriages; gossip and rumour; Turkish film and television; return visits to Turkey; multiculturalism and integration; and homeland politics. Consonant with the ethnographic approach deployed, these themes were selected on the bases of what research informants identified as being especially important and meaningful aspects of their lives in diaspora. However, while eschewing a central argument, the thesis reflects on how these themes relate directly or indirectly to matters of cultural preservation and very widespread anxieties that Turkish-Australians have about losing their culture. The dissertation’s author is clinically blind. So, whilst the issue of blindness is not a conscious concern in the dissertation, it is framed by a blind sensibility. It relies upon the author’s capacity for listening, rather than being, as per convention for anthropological work, observational. And, its data and findings are conditioned significantly by the way Turkish people conceptualise and treat blind people and this author in particular.
The Embeddedness of Policy Learning in Reform-Oriented Policy Change: The Case of Indonesian Public Administration Reform
Governments around the world have undertaken extensive programs of public administration reform. While such reform is intended to achieve specific, practical outcomes, it may also involve policy learning. Scholars have investigated the conceptual relationship between reform and policy learning, but there is a lack of empirical research into the causal mechanisms that explain this relationship. This thesis seeks to contribute to the understanding of reform-oriented policy learning, drawing theoretical insights from the fields of politics, public policy, and public administration. Its central question is: To what extent does policy learning facilitate policy change in shaping the trajectory of public administration reform? The thesis conducts an in-depth, comparative case analysis of two pieces of Indonesian legislation intended to reform public administration: the 2014 Civil Service Law (UU no. 5/2014) and the 2014 Government Administration Law (UU no. 30/2014). The ratification of these two laws marked a significant move away from the existing paradigms of Indonesian public administration, influenced by NPM and NPS paradigms layered on top of the old ways of public administration and patronage. This thesis compares the processes by which these two laws were proposed, negotiated and resolved in their ongoing processes of institutionalisation. Drawing on this analysis, the thesis describes the dynamic relationship between structure, institution and agency in shaping the reform trajectory, and analyses the role of path dependence in explaining the reform sequence; the importance of antecedent conditions; and the role of cumulative causation in the interaction between structural persistence, reactive sequence and reform outcomes. The thesis argues that reform-oriented policy learning is inherently political and contextually dependent; and thus, that it can be best understood as a multi-level phenomenon, whereby structure, institution and agency interact simultaneously to shape the reform trajectory. The thesis presents three key findings. The first is that policy learning involves distinct types and levels of learning. Thus, the thesis identifies the micro-foundations of learning, individual learning, collective learning and learning aggregation in the interdependent relationship between structure, institution and agency. The second is that policy learning is both an influence on, and a product of institutional change: policy learning is found in the mechanisms of change, which involve both exogenous and endogenous pressures for reform, the distinction between formal and informal change, and the feedback mechanisms that are produced by (and influence) change. The third is that policy learning is evident throughout the successive stages of the reform process; different aspects of policy learning shape the reform trajectory in different ways. The analysis of the reform trajectory and policy learning presented in this thesis provides the foundations for new theoretical work that connects structure, institution and agency in a more dynamic relationship. The thesis develops a model for analysing how reform-oriented policy learning occurs during the reform process, and how it shapes the reform trajectory. The study makes a major contribution to the public administration literature and provides important lessons for governmental practice.
The Drone Interface: A Relational Study of U.S. Drone Violence in Afghanistan
This thesis examines lived experiences of military drone violence, finding out about the lives of people who live(d) in areas of drone surveillance and bombardment in Afghanistan and veterans of the U.S. Air Force’s drone program. More specifically, it seeks to understand the relations between these two groups of people and the effects of these relations. To this end, it draws on interviews undertaken in Afghanistan, refugee camps in Greece and the United States in 2017, wherein interviewees were asked about the effects of drone violence on their lives and how they experience their relation to the person(s) on the other side of the drone. The project is informed by Feminist and Postcolonial International Relations/Security Studies and these fields’ insights on war and violence. As such, it not only recognises that ordinary people are significant actors in war, it also approaches the global North and global South as internally related to each other. Developing the concept of the ‘drone interface’, this thesis firstly argues for the necessity of a relational approach to the study of drone violence. The drone interface refers to the conduits – both technological and non-technological – that shape social relations between people on either side of the drone (and in turn are shaped by them). Applying the concept of the drone interface allows researchers to begin with the premise that U.S. Air Force drone personnel and people living under drones in Afghanistan have the power to affect each other. Analytically, this relational approach is necessary to better understand drone violence and its effects and implications in international relations. Politically, a relational approach uncovers a far wider range of harms inflicted in drone violence than is currently acknowledged in most academic and civil society scholarship on drones. These harms are produced in the relations between people operating and targeted by drones and are therefore missed in non-relational accounts. A relational account thus provokes a more persuasive normative critique of the use of U.S. drone surveillance and attacks than has been as-yet articulated. Second the thesis contends that the social relations between U.S. Air Force drone personnel and Afghan people experiencing drone violence need to be understood as relations of domination. These relations of domination I argue, produce and reproduce harms such as racism, sexism, poverty and alienation at the level of the domestic and the international. That is, drone violence not only (re)produces racism, sexism, poverty and alienation in international relations, it also compounds racist, patriarchal and capitalist relations within Afghanistan and the United States.
The effects of public voluntary regulation in developing country contexts: comparing regulatory performance across sectors and firms in Indonesia
In recent decades, governments worldwide have embraced public voluntary regulation as a non-mandatory regulatory strategy with the aim of improving socio-environmental performance in business. While such non-mandatory approaches to government regulation originated in North America and Europe, they have also been employed by a range of developing country governments, raising questions about the capacity of public voluntary regulation to function in developing country contexts. Existing regulatory scholarship has not yet developed a systematic framework for understanding how and why the effects of public voluntary regulation vary across different countries, sectors and firms, and if and how public voluntary regulators can adapt regulatory strategies to accommodate variation in such multiple dimensions of institutional context. This thesis aims to answer these questions by investigating how the capacity of public voluntary regulation to improve socio-environmental performance in regulated companies is mediated by varied institutional contexts. Analysis draws on a qualitative study of a prominent public voluntary regulatory program in Indonesia—PROPER (Industrial Environmental Rating Program). Drawing on empirical findings from extensive in-country field research together with theoretical insights on public voluntary regulation, political economy, environmental governance and CSR; the thesis presents a comparative analysis of how the PROPER program operated across two contrasting sectors (oil and gas and palm oil), and across state-owned and private firms. Findings indicate there is significant potential for public voluntary regulation to improve socio-environmental performance within the distinctive context of a developing country. However, specific regulatory strategies and their effects are shown to be highly sensitive to country, sectoral and firm contexts. Analysis identifies three key contextual factors that played a key role in the extent to which PROPER was able to improve socio-environmental performance: (1) the degree of pressure from third-party firm stakeholders (such as NGOs, communities, investors or consumers); (2) the sensitivity of firm management to government pressure, which depended in turn on the degree of discretionary power that government could exercise over firm managers through corporate governance arrangements and/or political patronage networks; and (3) the capacity and incentives of government to provide technical assistance to firms. These factors are shown to vary significantly between industrial sectors, and between private and state-owned firms, which in turn influenced the Indonesian regulatory environment. Findings also highlight the distinctive ways in which Indonesian regulators adapted public voluntary regulatory strategies to the Indonesian context—relying much more on informal, discretionary sources of state authority, than ‘background threats’ of formal regulation, on which much prior regulatory scholarship has focused. These findings are shown to have significant implications for both the theory and practice of public voluntary regulation in developing countries.
Women Politicians, Gender, Nation, and Democratisation: A Political Ethnography of Serbia and Kosovo
This is an ethnography of women politicians in the ‘politically sensitive environments’ (Browne and McBride, 2015, p. 34) of Serbia and Kosovo/a. It investigates the ways in which women imagined, constructed, and politicised national and gender identities as they actively engaged with politics in the context of the as yet understudied process of democratisation. This research highlights a profound paradox. In navigating between national and gender identities and everyday work in the nationalist contexts of Serbia and Kosovo/a, women politicians attained a certain degree of agency and emancipation. Despite the ongoing context of democratisation, however, the discourse remained fundamentally patriarchal and, therefore, subordinating for women. Even as they centred themselves in the present democratic political context, women continued to draw on the primordial and ancient elements of their ethnies/nations in the form of blood, roots, myths, symbols, and rituals as a means of politicising their own positions. In order to prove their invaluable contributions to their ethnies/nations, women politicised traditional gender roles and narratives. I argue that the lack of recognition and the continued undervaluing of women’s contributions have influenced the politicisation of gender and national identities in the process of democratisation and steered women towards the hierarchical organisation of ethnie over gender identity. Women politicians predominantly politicised their biological roles as reproducers, mothers, sisters, educators, and contributors to the ethnie in pursuit of greater gender equality with their men. The ongoing democratisation process in the Western Balkans opened space for greater political participation of women. It did not, however, automatically make this political space safe. Traditional gender and ethnie roles as well as patriarchal narratives still dominated political space and affected women’s political strategies. For these reasons, women are constantly required to negotiate between different ethnie and gender demands in order to survive in politics.
Egalitarianism, Deliberation and Technoscience: Reimagining Equality in a Postcolonial Democracy
Political theory in recent times have been confronted with two substantive challenges. On one hand while normative or analytic philosophy has come under criticism for being too abstract and devoid of any practical significance, the post-structural variety has not been able to proceed further beyond the critique of political institutions, specially of the liberal democratic form. While the former has to contend with the charge of an ethics-first approach that does not work in the real world of politics, the latter is handicapped by its inability to frame coherent political and normative frameworks. This dissertation attempts to bridge the divide by working with a recent tradition of democratic realism within the confines of liberal democratic theory. While doing so, it examines the ideas of development, security and resistance in the postcolonial context through the lens of India’s nuclear program. Much of the analysis of these issues have come from the standpoint of critiques of these ideas in contemporary times. Even though those analysis have provided us insights, previously unappreciated, they have not been successful in theorizing about the way forward. This dissertation is both a descriptive as well as a normative attempt to look at those issues with the aim of thinking beyond critique. It proceeds in three distinct parts where in i)using theory of democratic realism it seeks to argue how we need to go beyond the various critiques of development, ii) how Hume inspired moral sentimentalism can be re-imagined to extricate ourselves from the binaries of liberalism and nationalism and lastly, iii)using Stanley Cavell and Ranciere try to conceptualize the legitimacy and importance of subaltern resistance in democratic politics.
‘Framing’ Negotiation: Participant perspectives on industry-Indigenous agreement-making in the resource extraction context
This thesis examines industry-Indigenous agreement-making with a focus on the diamond mine industry in Northern Canada. Agreement-making is posited as a platform for Indigenous voices and viewpoints, a mechanism to generate greater Indigenous autonomy in land and resource decision-making. To date, evaluations of agreement-making and its potential to engender autonomy, have mostly concentrated on parameters set by legal and policy architectures, and on outcome evaluation. Structural parameters and contextual factors at the meso political level are drawn into and inform negotiation as the ‘microprocess’ that shapes interaction and the outcomes produced. Despite this, insufficient attention is paid to parties’ engagement ‘on the ground’. This thesis helps to fill this gap. It contends that negotiation, namely parties’ actual interaction, is a critical site of agreement-making’s transformative potential. This study defines autonomy as agency and authorship within engagements. Arguably, ‘meaningful negotiation’ - being an equality of standing and opportunity for Indigenous voices and viewpoints - is required for this form of autonomy to be realised. ‘Meaningful negotiation’ must provide a generative platform in which parties can assert their values, understandings and practices and where these diverge, an ability to accommodate polysemy. The history of Indigenous-settler engagements reveals significant challenges in bringing about ‘meaningful negotiation’. Past settler-Indigenous engagements over land and resources have marginalised Indigenous peoples. These precedents reveal the imposition of Anglo-settler values, understandings and practices and unequal relations of power between these groups. Indigenous peoples have struggled to assert their autonomy through historic treaties and the formal recognition of international and domestic rights and recognition. Contemporary agreement-making has arisen to mediate ongoing settler-Indigenous conflict over land and resources. Proponents locate agreement-making within a valued ‘politics of recovery’ to contest and transform the status quo. Others, informed by settler-colonial and critical Indigenous theory, explicitly reject it as ‘redefining without reforming’. This thesis adopted a participant-based case study of the Impact Benefit Agreements of the diamond mining industry in the Northwest Territories, Canada. It examined the negotiation space through participant accounts, drawing on 28 qualitative interviews and primary and secondary document analysis. Its conceptual approach was informed by frame theory; ‘frames’ map where divergences arise and how these are mediated between the ‘sides’ negotiating. The study finds a number of factors worked to inhibit ‘meaningful negotiation’. This revealed itself as an inability to accommodate the most extreme points of divergence in values, understandings and practices. While some participants perceived the potential for greater autonomy within the negotiations of industry-Indigenous agreement-making, this proved contingent on the nature and scope of these divergences and their respective prospects for mediation.