Striking a Balance between Development, Modernization and Sociocultural Conservation

Throughout the semester, one of the most outstanding themes in anthropology and development encountered surrounds the relationship and nature of the balance between development and socio-cultural conservation. The intake gained from these themes along with the topics involved present the question that should the element of development or even modernization concern itself with cultural preservation as well as environmental conservation? The realization gained from the study of the broad topics involved in the semester is that global development does struggle with all forms of privilege which also includes the ideas of urban bias. In anthropology, working in development does call for even greater engagement with sociocultural issues to ensure that the problem is not compounded in striking a balance between development and conservation. From what I have learned in anthropology is that human beings do share a common cultural system that shapes and organized the social and physical world around them. But there is a blank position in determining the relationship between the preservation of our cultural heritage as well as bringing in transformative development. It is within this sphere and thinking that I was drawn even closer to the concept of sustainable development. This does not only include environmental but also the social and cultural aspects of human life. My attention to the topic was drawn to the actions taken by various governments in presenting the element of development to their rural areas. The main problem as I learned is that the preservation of cultural heritage is greatly understood to be a barrier towards economic development although economic benefits can be generated through cultural heritage.

The major problem that I have noted while reading the course material concerning how the issues of development are handled is that the required attention is not directed towards an anthropological approach to the process of development. According to Olivier de Sardan (2005), there is a need for socio anthropology of change and development, there is a need for the study of social groups and their interactions along with the combination of the analysis of the various social practices and consciousness. This means the process of development has to take into consideration understanding the social organization of the society, its systems as well as the people before presenting change. The discourse on development that I have encountered throughout the course features the ideas regarding action taken in transforming the realities by voluntary and non-voluntary means. From what I see, there is a criticism of the developmental rhetoric that does not take into consideration the importance of the socio-cultural elements of any society. Modernization theorists have always stated that development does bring about pervasive cultural changes. But with modernization, there is a part that ignores the fact that cultural values tend to have an autonomous and enduring influence on society. The course has taught me that the 21st century will be recognized as a century of globalization but with this, there will be a threat of cultural globalization. This presents the importance for every nation as well as its various communities to identify and also maintain the characteristic features that would allow it to reflect the identity and diversity of the place.

The course has also prompted me to gain a deeper understating of the issues of sustainability and development that emerges with the concerns surrounding issues such as the chase for resources amidst the plight of both pastoralists and indigenous communities. In the article Natural Gas Extraction and Community Development in Tanzania: Documenting the Gaps between Rhetoric and Reality, Kamat et al. (2019) developmental aspirations have to take into consideration ordinary citizens as their impacts have to be known before their implementation. The outcome from the lesson in the course is that there is a major gap between the expectations of the governments in light of development and its various processes and the cultural sustainability of the communities which have been of great benefit to the people. The effectiveness of developmental measures is directly proportional to the anthropological considerations presented towards a community. In practice, development takes the definition of good change, but if the outcome does not consider its effects on the society or on a particular way of life of the people then this development would be negative in general.  Without the consideration of anthropological studies in the process of development, then the themes of sustainability, inclusion, or even social cohesion would be difficult to present to a community. The main idea that I have picked up throughout the course surrounds the costs of development that lack the framework of understanding the importance of non-material dimensional wellbeing. Since development does rest on natural, human, and socio-economic capital, anthropological discourse is required to bridge the gap between development and socio-cultural conservation. It is through this that the intersection and intertwining elements of inequality can be addressed in presenting developmental measures.

The course has presented me with a good understanding of the phenomenon of development and conservation. I have learned why most developmental measures in rural areas are unable to meet their goals considering the actions of the government are pushing for modernity at the expense of the lives of the citizens. The reading Seeing Like a State by James Scott (2008) did broaden my understanding of the importance of anthropological studies in determining the failure of bureaucratic planning. The fact that development becomes difficult since government fails to acknowledge and accommodate local knowledge since it does not fit into the bureaucratic systems. The failure in conservation processes is underlined by the failure of the state mechanisms in coping with social and ecological diversity. The main point I learned in this is that in the creation of a rational plan, the biggest mistake comes in ignoring the local condition which offers a state planning problem. Anthropology is not presented as a priority in terms of the presentation of knowledge. As much as development is good, socio-cultural conservation is important. In presenting development measures, consideration has to be placed on the local knowledge. By ignoring anthropology, there is a subjective lack of comprehension on to what the developmental factor one is looking at. There is a desire for modernity which would come at a cost, there is a lack of measures that would manage the complexities of social life as well as the natural environment. Considering the power of the state, being blind to the local society does not sit well with their desire for modernization. In essence, I have learned the importance of anthropology in developmental issues since society is more important than the desire for modernism.