Doing Development in West Africa

A Reader by and for Undergraduates

Doing Development in West Africa

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 33 photographs Published: August 2016

African Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Pedagogy and Higher Education

In recent years the popularity of service learning and study abroad programs that bring students to the global South has soared, thanks to this generation of college students' desire to make a positive difference in the world. This collection contains essays by undergraduates who recount their experiences in Togo working on projects that established health insurance at a local clinic, built a cyber café, created a microlending program for teens, and started a local writers' group. The essays show students putting their optimism to work while learning that paying attention to local knowledge can make all the difference in a project's success. Students also conducted research on global health topics by examining the complex relationships between traditional healing practices and biomedicine. Charles Piot's introduction contextualizes student-initiated development within the history of development work in West Africa since 1960, while his epilogue provides an update on the projects, compiles an inventory of best practices, and describes the type of projects that are likely to succeed. Doing Development in West Africa provides a relatable and intimate look into the range of challenges, successes, and failures that come with studying abroad in the global South.

Contributors. Cheyenne Allenby, Kelly Andrejko, Connor Cotton, Allie Middleton, Caitlin Moyles, Charles Piot, Benjamin Ramsey, Maria Cecilia Romano, Stephanie Rotolo, Emma Smith, Sarah Zimmerman


"Students are refreshingly candid about the nature and multitude of problems they faced and the need to scale back their expectations. As Piot notes, development is hard work. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty."
  — S. Paul, Choice

"Doing Development in West Africa constitutes an impressive practical and scholarly accomplishment. . . . Contributions and challenges, strengths and limitations, joys and frustrations find articulate and compelling voices in this forthright treatment of selected small-scale student projects undertaken over the past eight years." — Peter H. Koehn, Journal of Modern African Studies

"Doing Development in West Africa will be a valuable book for courses in international development, African studies, and development anthropology, and provides good 'hands-on' guidance for students preparing for summer projects in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. While written for undergraduates, the book also provides important lessons for development practitioners who often fail to appreciate the importance of local context, history, and knowledge systems, and then wonder why their development efforts go awry." — Peter D. Little, African Studies Review

"This is an unusual and unusually useful volume. . . . Clearly, this little volume can be used to advantage not only in courses on development but also in applied anthropology and qualitative methods courses." — Constance deRoche, General Anthropology

"The depictions of development achieved in this work . . . are strong examples of lessons learnt that can be scaled-up to improve development practices at all levels." — Madeline Byers, Progress in Development Studies

"The perspectives of the students in this collection make it clear that simply having good intentions, dedication, or even excellent innovative ideas are not sufficient to implement the initiatives that development workers hope to. A grasp of local politics and regional histories and social forms is critical, not just to success, but to understanding the nature of the 'problems' in the first place. An innovative work, Doing Development in West Africa is an eminently readable and teachable text valuable to courses in international relations, political science, and anthropology." — Brad Weiss, author of Real Pigs: Shifting Values in the Field of Local Pork

"Doing Development in West Africa takes us into the vast, frustrating, and rapidly changing world of international development from the perspective of undergraduates seeking to carry out their own mini-development projects. Their essays throw into clear relief the issues of cultural understanding that are so crucial to successful development, while offering a rich trove of reflexive thought and outward-oriented cultural discovery." — John P. Hawkins, coauthor of Health Care in Maya Guatemala: Confronting Medical Pluralism in a Developing Country


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Charles Piot is Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Duke University, and the author of Nostalgia for the Future: West Africa after the Cold War.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii

Introduction / Charles Piot  1

Part I. Personal Reflections

1. Students Reflect / Stephanie Rotolo, Allie Middleton, Kelly Andrejko, Benjamin Ramsey, Maria Cecilia Romano  19

Part II. Research Articles

2. The Social Life of Medicine / Allie Middleton  43

3. Biomedicine and Traditional Healing / Stephanie Rotolo  67

4. Rural Medicines in an Urban Setting / Kelly Andrejko  83

5. Village Health Insurance / Cheyenne Allenby  99

6. Youth Migration / Maria Cecilia Romano  113

7. Cyber Village / Connor Cotton  137

8. Computer Classes / Sarah Zimmerman  153

9. Microfinancing Teens / Emma Smith  165

10. The Farendé Writers' Society / Caitlin Moyles  187

Epilogue / Charles Piot  205

Index  213
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6192-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6176-3
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