Decolonising development work

A transfeminist perspective 1

Authored by: Corinne L. Mason

Routledge Handbook of Queer Development Studies

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  January  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138693753
eBook ISBN: 9781315529530
Adobe ISBN:


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Development research is a field in which ramifications, direct and indirect, of colonial perceptions and functionalities have long had a considerable presence. Power and decision-making capabilities repartitioned along racial lines is not uncommon in many international development/aid distribution contexts. This has inevitably resulted in making cisnormativity and, to a very large extent, heteronormativity the benchmark from which development work operates, in terms of research in the Western academy, as well as practitioner work in the ‘field’ (read under-developed contexts of the global South, near-totality of them having been broken by cycles of Western colonisation, home to non-Caucasian peoples). In this chapter, I argue that the cis-heteronormativity of development work is inherently linked to the neocolonial undertones and power imbalances in development and foreign-aid based activism in the global South/s. It is therefore impossible to successfully challenge the cis-heteronormativities of development work in the absence of an adequate appraisal of what Development Studies entails – in terms of its Eurocentric and colonial origins, and inherent power/economic and racial politics. This contribution makes the case that a decolonising-oriented critical approach is the most promising path forward in exploring ways of decolonising development work (and indeed development-related research and policy formulation). In developing this analysis, I will especially draw from theoretical innovations in Transfeminism, which is strongly inspired by and emphasises women-of-colour feminist perspectives, global South feminism/s and discourses of decolonising. The chapter will also carry personal insights from my own lived experience as a Trans woman of colour, living in Western Europe and researching international politics in a heavily cis-heteronormative (and very largely Eurocentric academic) context.

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