Dr. Geidel entitled her Introduction, “The Seductive Culture of Development” taking the title from a line by Nanda Shrestha in his In the Name of Development, “Are we ever going to realize the deep wounds that the seductive culture of development leaves on us? If we ever do, what can we do to heal such wounds?”
In 1962, Nanda Shrestha was in sixth-grade, Geidel tells us, quoting from Shrestha’s 1997 memoir, when the Peace Corps arrived in Nepal, bringing with them “fancy chairs, desks, and tables” to inaugurate the first U.S.,-run vocational schools in Nepal and bikas, the ideology of development.”
Dr. Geidel goes onto write (on the first page of her Introduction) “bikas not only created needs it could not satisfy, but also manufactured new subjectivity and new, terrible understandings of the conditions in which he and his community live.”
Shrestha’s identification of Peace Corps development ventures a source of profound anxiety and social fragmentation might seen difficult to reconcile with the agency’s place in the U.S. popular imagination, Dr. Geidel goes onto write, then sums up, “However, the 1960s Peace Crops embodied this contradiction, mobilizing the idealism of its volunteers in a global modernization project whose explicit aim was to destroy ‘traditional’ habits, values, and communities.”
Dr. Geidel says next what her book is all about:
This book takes as its subject these contradictory impulses, examining the ideological work performed by the 1960s Peace Corps along with its impact on the “millions of people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America” who were, in the words of Peace Corps founding staffer Harris Wofford, “taught, tended, organized, irritated, charmed, and otherwise stirred to claim their rightful place in the twentieth century.” In this book, I offer a genealogy of how the imperative Wofford articulates, to create and regulate individual subjectivity through heroic development work, became intelligible and desirable in the United States and around the world.
Why is this man smiling?
photo by Rowland Scherman