CSWS Research Matters Spring 2014: Erin Beck

1406_CSWS_Research_Matters_Beck_coverSpring 2014 CSWS Research Matters:
“In Guatemala: Everyday Practices and Experiences of Development through Women’s Eyes,” by Erin Beck, Assistant Professor, University of Oregon Department of Political Science

Political science professor Erin Beck’s ethnographic study of women in Guatemala who are enrolled in programs of non-governmental organizations with contrasting styles shows that “development is an emergent process that is shaped by the interactions between ‘developers’ and their ‘beneficiaries.’”

This two-page article about her research explores the experiences of two impoverished women, one enrolled in a program that “focuses on multifaceted (material and non-material) goals, hopes to transform markets, and seeks individual, family, and community-level changes with little concern for measurement and efficiency.” And the other enrolled in a program that “focuses on material resources, leverages the market, and seeks individual-level changes alongside measurement and efficiency.”

Professor Beck concludes: “By bringing ethnographies of development organizations and workers together with close analyses of development projects through their beneficiaries’ eyes, my research reveals that ‘developers’ and ‘beneficiaries,’ each influenced by their own histories and experiences, interact to produce something not quite intended, but something that can be recast by various agents as success—thus explaining the persistence of development projects despite roughly sixty years of evidence that indicates that development projects have failed to produce meaningful structural transformation.”