Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Importance of Unity in Approaching E-E Campaigns

The article by Dutta brings to mind many of the theories that we have covered in class regarding the flow of information and the tendency for western ideas to be promulgated to the developing world. I enjoy that Dutta takes offense to the current state of affairs regarding the EE campaigns but am surprised by the powerful and accusatory tone that he takes through the article.

I think that Dutta's assertion really comes down to the importance of E-E campaigners to be brought into the sub-altern world in order to gain a greater understanding and perspective of what they are charged with helping. By giving the sub-altern community an opportunity to participate (a word Dutta clearly emphasizes), they are then empowered to be part of a change and "buy-in" based on the notion that they created a stake in the result. The example of 35% of Indians not viewing overpopulation as a problem gives more credence to the seemingly obvious notion that the under-represented poor must have a stake in the solution.

While he provides many insightful comments and is generally on the right track in proposing a re-evaluation of value systems and objectives, Dutta paints an accusatory picture of USAID and other international aid organizations. While there may certainly be some issues with some past action, there have also been enormous successes that can be attributed to the work of such organizations. I do not think that blame can be based squarely on the shoulders of large international aid agencies but should be assumed by the community as a whole and set as a goal for working more closely together to accomplish a single, unifying objective.

41 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more! I actually wrote something similar in my own blog post. I think he paints USAID as the unequivocal "bad guy" in the E-E campaigns without needing to. I was especially shocked when he obliquely compared USAID's programs to South African apartheid (mentioned them in the same paragraph--come on, seriously?). I'm glad someone else picked up on the same things that I did. I agree too that these large IGOs and agencies should not take all the blame for the shortcomings of current E-E programs. It's a much more complicated picture than Dutta paints, and to oversimplify it the way he does could really be detrimental to reforms in the area of communication development.

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  3. Nick & Christina, Although Dutta was harsh on USAID, I think it was necessary to get his point across. In the end of the article, I like how Dutta puts things in perspective from a macro perspective by stating, "similar arguments may be put forth against any other campaign approach that embodies the top-down flow of communication." This makes us realize that Dutta is not necessarily picking on USAID but trying to open our eyes to a central flaw in all top-down communication campaigns.

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  4. I think Dutta's example of the Indian perception of overpopulation was important because it reflects the reality that not every culture synthesizes and views their living conditions or lifestyle based on the same standards. The "buying in" that you talk about in your post is critical to creating change, because people who accept certain risks or discomforts in their everyday lives have to fight the inertia that comes with that acceptance in order to adopt a pro-active mindset or really commit to new habits.

    I agree with you that the people in aid groups are generally not out to get the people they are meant to help and Dutta's rhetoric is a little alarmist. I say the people in aid groups, though, because they are not necessarily representative of the bottom-line mission of the organization. I think a dose of skepticism is necessary when looking at the people who formulate that bottom line and dictate the procedures and resources available to workers on the ground. An organization funded by or overseen by a government has that country's interests at heart.

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  5. Random, but after reading Dutta and viewing the presentations in SIS 640 today I can't help but think of Bollywood and the potential for E-E related strategy. Hindi cinema is a contraflow to dominant discourse and is affordable, relatable accesible to much of the developing world. Although I'm sure Dutta would view this assertion with a critical eye, I believe that through dialogue, subaltern voices could be applied to Bollywood productions and have huge implications as entertainment education campaigns.

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