For some reason this got stuck in the drafts folder a while back.

David Lewis, Dennis Rogers, and Michael Woolcock ask that we not look only to academic journals, but to the arts too when discussing development. A broader range of sources will have many advantages, they write:


In the first instance, we found that development knowledge – or more specifically, what counts as serious or legitimate knowledge about development – is too often narrowly represented within academic and policy discussions. Development is one of the key ideas of our time, and should not be the exclusive purview of technocrats and academics.

Second, it can take us beyond narrow (largely western and northern) forms of development professionalism and expertise, and actively incorporate other voices and other forms of knowledge into discussions about development ideas, evidence, policy and practice.

Finally, popular representations have important implications for how we teach people about development, and remind us of the wider options that are available to illustrate and to inspire.

I had a professor in college who assigned a novel in every political science class he took. In our seminar on corruption, we read No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe (I wrote about it elsewhere). I ended up citing it in a paper later; more so than  any academic source it tried to explain on a human level how people in postcolonial African societies can relate with the state in a way that can lead to what we term corrupt. Similarly, I would think his No Longer at Ease could be used in a class on the experience of colonialism. Many more examples come to mind, and not just in the development context. Novels can teach us so much — including just basic empathy — that it’s a shame they aren’t used as teaching materials more often.