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The Afterlives of Development Interventions in Eastern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique)

Project description

Rethinking the long-term consequences of development interventions

Development interventions in the Global South focus on progress and innovation. However, they too often overlook the wider long-term consequences of their work for local communities. Drawing its attention to Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique, the EU-funded AfDevLives project will explore development's tangible and intangible legacies. Through an interdisciplinary approach with a social anthropological core and using careful ethnography involving creative methods, the project will develop a methodological toolkit and a set of outputs aimed at academics, development specialists, participating communities, and the public at large.


International development involves ideologies and activities ostensibly directed towards the improvement of well-being of populations in the Global South. Mainstream development interventions emphasize forward-looking ideas of progress and advocate for novelty. In so doing, however, the sector is often myopic, as evidenced by countless unintended consequences that stretch beyond interventions' official life cycle. Whether deemed success or failure, such interventions leave behind a long trail of tangible and intangible traces.
Project AfDevLives explores how development interventions' representational and material remains are experienced, employed, and re-appropriated by local actors over time, and how such active immanence of the past affects people's life-worlds. It weaves together three temporal gazes: prospective (development's blueprints); retrospective (sediments of the past, shorthanded as interventions' 'afterlives'); and present-time lived experience. Consciously de-centering formal development discourse and temporalities, the project develops and applies a phenomenological framework oriented around embodiment and intertwinement of people, objects, and space.
Using an interdisciplinary approach centered on social anthropology, research will be conducted in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique, neighbouring Eastern African countries that are among the highest recipients of development aid and whose past and present balance continuities and ruptures. The project will unfold via an iterative process involving four complementary work packages: Movement, Image, Storytelling, and Synthesis. Working across work packages, countries, and case studies, the project will pursue three categories of objectives: conceptual (methodological toolkit), empirical (based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork), and practical (aimed at the development sector, local heirs of interventions, and the public at large). The project will result in a robust set of outputs.

Host institution

Iscte - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa
Net EU contribution
€ 1 499 745,00
1649 026 Lisboa

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Continente Área Metropolitana de Lisboa Área Metropolitana de Lisboa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 499 745,00

Beneficiaries (1)