Culture and Public Action

Edited by Vijayendra Rao and Michael Walton
Stanford University Press / Permanent Black
2004

How does culture matter for development? Do certain societies have cultures which condemn them to poverty? Led by Arjun Appadurai, Mary Douglas, and Amartya Sen, the anthropologists and economists in this volume contend that culture is central to development, and that cultural processes are neither inherently good nor bad and never static. Rather, they are contested and evolving, and can be a source of profound social and economic transformation through their influence on aspirations and collective action; yet they can also be exploitative, exclusionary, and can lead to inequality.

Culture and Public Action includes case studies from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, which examine the role of culture in community-based development, ethnic conflict, famine relief, gender discrimination, and HIV-AIDS policy. The editors conclude by proposing how a "cultural lens" can better inform future research and public policy on development. Accessible, balanced, and engaging, this book will be of interest to anyone concerned with the relationship between culture and economics, and the design and implementation of development policy.