Culture and Public Action

october 2004 -
Culture and public action

Culture and public action, 01-10-2004

The book Culture and Public Action, which is sponsored by the World Bank and published in May 2004, contains 16 essays on the role of culture in development co-operation and foreign aid. Most of the authors, who are mainly economists and anthropologists, take a fairly instrumental view of culture: culture as a factor that you have to take into consideration or as something that can promote or hinder (economic) development. They provide examples of projects (such as aids counselling in India) that were successful because they were planned with the local culture in mind, and of projects (such as the famine relief work in Sudan) that were unsuccessful because the local culture was ignored. The Dutch economist Arjo Klamer stresses that culture has an intrinsic value too, as a unifying force in a society. Lourdes Arizpe gives an illuminating overview of the role that culture has played over the past fifty years in the discussion about development co-operation and foreign aid.

The somewhat rough-and-ready website set up in connection with the Culture and Public Action book provides an excellent introduction to it, including summaries of all chapters and pdf versions of the introductory and closing articles. For the diehards, there is a complete (15-hour!) video report of the eponymous conference, which was held in 2002. Finally, there are book reviews (again in pdf form) and a number of useful links.