Alleviating Harm Within International Development



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This thesis examines the relationship between cultural values and international development policies in Samoa to discern the uneven distribution of harm within the development apparatus. In so doing, I analyze the a) anthropological literature of development; b) creation of policy within the headquarters of an international development agency; c) negotiations of development policy when it lands in Samoa; and d) effects of international development on families and individuals. This examination highlights how harm and development are characterized differently within different cultural and social contexts, which then influences how a country like Samoa is affected by the Eurocentric notion of international development. International development, as championed by organizations such as the United Nations, promotes a particular method of development that encourages capitalistic ideals of economic growth, individuality, and increased production. The promotion of such development goals within Samoa, however, can result in a failure to recognize what Samoans prioritize for development, and what they characterize as harmful and exploitative practices. I argue that in order to alleviate harm within international development there must be an acknowledgement of what constitutes harm and development in a particular country such as Samoa. In doing so, I assess how development goals are negotiated between various development actors (Samoan community members, scholars, government officials, and international development agencies) to become contextual to the fa’asamoa, or Samoan way of life, and the ways in which these negotiations highlight the diverse understandings of development in Samoa. By way of acknowledging diversity within development goals, I call into question the relevance of a linear trajectory of international development, in which Eurocentric notions of development are imposed on a globally diverse population. Moreover, I analyze how the linear trajectory of international development can enforce harm, and how Samoans work to alleviate harm within their community.


Anthropology Department


International development, Cultural values, Alleviating harm, Samoa