2019-2020 Global Development Studies Senior Thesis Projects

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Isabel McClain '20

Project Title:  Communicating Development: Doing Good versus Looking Good.

Summary:  Development communication is a study and practice in which people communicate both for and about development projects and issues. Through all available channels, governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals produce narratives and discourses about development. Through communication, they have the ability to define what development is, who needs development, who can do development work, and how it is done. This thesis project provides context about development communication, including historical background information, an examination of relevant theories, and discussions on the ethics of the practice. The second part of the project is a case study that examines health related development communication, looking specifically at the AIDS crisis and Uganda. By looking at Uganda, this case study highlights the benefits of creating locally developed and culturally specific communications campaigns. The final thesis section is another case study, this time looking at the role of celebrities in humanitarian and development work, and the costs and benefits of celebrity engagement. These three parts work together to highlight the ways in which communications can be used to shape narratives surrounding development. These narratives hold great power; they often become something of cultural truth, and initial discourses can be difficult to correct later. These three sections also look at the ways in which communication about development can be full of contradictions: on one hand, awareness on any level is good, as is monetary donations. On the other, what is the human cost of getting attention and financial donations? The many actors in development constantly reinforce old ideas, bring new narratives to the table, and reshape representations of the people of the world.