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  • Online workshop 12: "Contested visions of development: doing desk-based ethnography on international donors" by Dr Portia Roelofs

Online workshop 12: "Contested visions of development: doing desk-based ethnography on international donors" by Dr Portia Roelofs


As you may know, in accordance with the latest government statement regarding measures to contain the COVID-19 virus, IFRA-Nigeria's offices are closed until further notice, library included. However, IFRA’s team has come up with alternative solutions to continue its training activities.

We are hosting a series of online events using Facebook Live as a platform.


This twelth online workshop on "Contested visions of development: doing desk-based ethnography on international donors" was facilitated by Dr  Portia Roelofs. It was held on Tuesday 30th of June 2020 at 1pm (Nigerian time) on our Facebook page. 

Dr Portia Roelofs is the Clayman-Fulford Junior Research Fellow in Politics and Political Thought at St Anne’s College, Oxford. Her research interests lie at the intersection of politics, development studies and political theory. She has a PhD in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. Her work has appeared in Governance and Journal of Modern African Studies. She is currently working on a project on public-private partnerships in Nigeria. More details are available on here website.

20200630 Portia Roelofs

What is the workshop about?

Development has come to be one of the defining concepts through which we understand the world: shaping how many understand their lives and their aspirations. This talk draws on literature on ethnographies of development to challenge the naturalisation of development as a linear teleological trajectory, highlighting instead how ideas of development are constructed and contested, whether by international donors, governments or people on the ground. Drawing on her own research on politics in south-west Nigeria, Dr Roelofs reflected on some methodological issues. First, at the level of research design, how we can develop research questions that go beyond simply asking how to achieve development, shifting to a focus on what these contested conceptions of development do: who they empower, what possibilities they create, and how they structure distribution. Second, there are ways of adopting inductive, ethnographically-informed methods for desk-research even under lockdown or when field-research is not an option. Dr Roelofs talked about strategies for finding and analysing publicly available donor documents online.

For more informations:

Brief slides listing key resources will be made available before the talk. Dr Roelofs’ past work on development and politics in south-west Nigeria is available to read open-access online, including on rival ideas of good governance and the Lagos Model, transparency and distributive politics.

 20200630 Workshop Portia


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