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Thinking Beyond Borders: The Ruling Relations of International Funding by activistnotes

Thinking Beyond Borders: The Ruling Relations of International Funding 

A Workshop on Institutional Ethnography & International Development

June 5th, Room 1204, Civil & Mechanical Engineering Building, UBC

This workshop is funded by a CFHSS-CIDA grant. It is being co-hosted by the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development, the Society for Socialist Studies and the Canadian Sociology Association, and organized by Marie Campbell, University of Victoria and Debbie Dergousoff, Simon Fraser University


The workshop introduces institutional ethnography as a research approach that is distinctive in viewing international development as a multi-level “institution” whose relations with participants stretch across global, scholarly and socio-cultural boundaries. The institution (according to institutional ethnography’s ontological approach) comes into being through the activities of people at all levels, including in local projects that enable and empower “beneficiaries”. Studying “how things work in everyday life”, this feminist-inspired approach is particularly suited for inquiry into the organization of women’s and other marginalized people’s experiences. In the case of international development, the questions that we consider include: How do policies and practices of (western/northern) agencies engage actors in activities specifically designed to “develop” and “empower”? And, in turn, how do local participants in development projects make their knowledge and subjectivity count in these relations?


Usually taken for granted as simply the necessary support for people attempting to improve their lives in developing societies, international funding for development is understood as an active ingredient in a new relation. From one side, the relation-building begins with finding a donor, writing proposals, negotiating an agreement, learning to manage funds and account for its uses, and so on; from the other side, it includes a range of (matching) activities – developing policy and programs, creating accountability mechanisms, making contacts, and communicating requirements, and so on. The workshop offers a venue to reconsider international development and development research, as it brings together international development experts and practitioners, institutional ethnography scholars and other development researchers to consider presenters’ accounts of being involved in taking up development policy and programs in local settings.  

Tentative Program

I: (8:30 am) Introduction: Women, International Development and Research

Keynote speakers: (i) Rajkumari Shanker, Senior Policy Analyst, CIDA, “Women and Development”; (ii) Tim Pyrch, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary


II: (10:00 am) Understanding Institutional Ethnography as a Method of Inquiry in International Development

Dorothy Smith, Professor Emerita, OISE, will lead this teaching session intended to help participants develop an understanding of the way Institutional Ethnography frames the approach to research that begins in “women’s  experience” and moves from ethnographic data to the discovery of “ruling relations” in the institution (e.g., of international development).


Lunch Break (11:30 – 12:45)


III:  (12:45 pm) Empowerment of Women and the Ruling Relations of Development Funding

Presentations will be made by researchers and practitioners of international development:

 Norma Jo Baker, Department of Sociology, Nipissing University “Making and knowing the post-Soviet world:  the case of post-secondary development initiatives in Central Asia  

Guljan Kudabaeva, Aigine Research Centre, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, “Participant observation of the process of getting international funding in a Kyrgyzstan NGO

Lanyan Chen, Institute of Gender and Social Development Studies, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin, China Chinese women’s participation in governance through public consultation: learning from women’s development projects”  

Sheila Gruner, Department of OISE, Toronto, The effects of texts on land and life: Towards a method of inquiry

Peter Ove, Department of Sociology, UBC: “(Fund)Raising the Sponsored Child: On the discourse and dynamics of child sponsorship”

Sonya Jakubek, Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary; “Managing results for the right to health: the social organization of the rights to mental health and development”.


IV: (3:00 pm) Mapping Social Relations: Moving from “Experiential Knowledge” to “Ruling Relations”

Susan Turner, Coordinator of the Rural Women Making Change Project, University of Guelph will facilitate an analytic “mapping” activity, drawing from accounts given by researchers in the workshop.



We extend an invitation to registrants who are themselves professionals and/or academics working in the field of international development, members of any of the various disciplines interested in research, policy and practice of development, gender and women’s empowerment in local and international contexts.


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A friend of mine just emailed me one of your articles from a while back. I read that one and a few more. Really enjoy your blog. Thanks.

Jason Whitmen

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