Subjectivity, Collective Action and the Governance Agenda in Arumeru East

Date: Jun, 2000
ODID Working Paper No. 42
Author(s): Tim Kelsall (QEH)

Under the Governance Agenda, NGOs in Africa are being viewed as vehicles for the promotion of a culture of democracy at the grassroots, a project which can equally be construed as an insidious attempt to create 'liberal selves'. This paper examines the social construction of selfhood in a particular District in Tanzania. It argues that selves are currently constructed in historically derived social relations spanning several different sites and having contradictory effects on the capacity for and character of collective action. Democracy functions imperfectly not because of an absence of a 'culture' of democracy, but because that culture is subject to conflicting cross-pulls. An NGO currently working in the area with its own vision of transforming selfhood is shown to be at best partially effective, in main because it fails to make a difference across the several sites in which subjectivity is constructed.

ODID Author(s)