Defining This Space
What Do We Mean By 'Privilege'?
Before delving into any discussions within this platform, it is important to understand the key concepts and themes that are continuously raised and discussed throughout.
Words are powerful and can hold significant value and representation within them. As a result, language can be considered contentious; like the title of this platform and the use of the word 'privilege'.
Who is to say what privilege really is and how can we legitimately define who has it?
In the context of this platform, when privilege is discussed, we are referring to not only 'white privilege' but also a number of other privileges, such as gender, sexual orientation, able-bodiness, class and religion.
The focus of privilege was a very deliberate choice and something we have been very conscious of through each discussion and discourse we pursue on this platform.
The intention of such a focus is not to exclude, rather challenge a particular group of people who often have the largest impact on our society and those considered in vulnerable positions.
Through this, we aim at making people aware of their privileged position and the impact they may have on others as a result.
How Do We Define Development?
A bit like the word 'privilege', 'development' can also be considered a contentious term.
Again, questions are raised around what really determines what is considered as 'developing' and 'developed'. Often these terms are coined and used by the West through limited and bias perceptions. As a result, these practises can often undermine a population of people, in an effort to align such communities with the West's dominant and superior predisposition.
It's important to note that we do not aim to define development, rather, we aim to evaluate how it is currently structured and practised. This involves looking at a multitude of factors that create the term. As a result, the meaning of development does not have one defining term, rather is a concept that aims to be continually critiqued and evaluated surrounding the ideas of what contributes to its existence. Ideas surrounding development should involve, concepts, actions and goals. Through the effective implementation of development, the practice should entail the experiences, ideas and practices of multiple actors connected to the particular issue or subject that is of focus. As a result, development often acquires a number of different meanings. There is no one definite definition.
Descriptive terms such as 'developing countries' and the 'global south' have replaced backward terms such as the use of 'third world'. However, as we progress within the 'development field', our terminology is ever-evolving to represent populations more ethically.
Who Is The West?
The Western world, also known as the 'West' or the 'Global North', refers to various nations depending on the context, involving Western Europe, Australasia, and North America. Within the context of this blog, the 'West' is viewed as a dominant force within development and various other socio-political contexts.
"It is the rich governments in North America and Western Europe who largely control international agencies and the effort to transform poor nations." - William Easterly
In comparison to this, we see descriptive words such as the 'Global South' or the 'Eastern World' to represent countries seen as low and middle-income nations. The 'Global South' is a term which categorizes countries such as Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. These nations are often described as newly 'developed' or in the process of 'developing'.
Defining Ethnocentrism and the 'Orient'
Ethnocentrism is defined as: "the view that one's own culture is better than anyone else's culture".
As a practice, it consists of evaluating another culture through the perspective of one's own. Ethnocentrism is the act of judging another culture based on predispositions that are formed through values and standards of one's own culture; such values involve language, behaviour, customs, and religion.
Palestinian professor, Edward Said's concept of 'Orientalism' was born in 1978 and drew heavy controversy due to its confrontation on how both the 'East' and the 'West' was being portrayed in academic literature. Edward Said particularly focused on the Western structuring and values towards the 'East' and how often these values have been misrepresented and stereotyped.
Said describes the 'Orient' as the category in which the entire 'East' is confined; such a category is made up of the Middle East and East Asian cultures. We see this similarly with the grouping of the entire African continent also. Through such a broad categorisation, Said suggests that bias perceptions have hindered a true understanding of these differing cultures. Through an ethnocentric lens, these cultures have been portrayed as destinations filled with 'exotic' and 'curious' tales for the 'West' to explore and exploit.