New Developmentspeak - Old Habits? The Role of Buzzwords in Shaping Alternative Development Approaches

Julia Antonia Gause

Studenteropgave: Speciale


This thesis investigates the extent to which the language applied in the development sector since the 1990s reflects a shift towards alternative development approaches. It argues that the emergence of what has been called ‘developmentspeak’ was a reaction to critiques about the concept of ‘development’. Especially post-development theorists, but also advocates of alternative development approaches, had stated that the West, looking down on the developing world from a position of perceived superiority, used the idea of development to promote a particular kind of Western modernity. By employing a new type of terminology, development organisations sought to scatter this criticism. Based on data available online as well as three semi-structured interviews, three development projects implemented by Western organisations are analysed with regard to the language they use. Applying Critical Discourse Analysis, underlying power structures are uncovered in order to understand how the organisations carrying out the projects perceive the people they are working with. The findings suggest that all three projects strive to avoid anything which would imply that they act from a position of superiority. However, the concept of empowerment, on which a distinct emphasis was placed, has been found to include some elements that imply a hierarchical relationship between the one who empowers and the one who needs to be empowered, making it an inherently hierarchical concept. Nevertheless, the thesis concludes that the way developmentspeak has been applied by the three organisations reflects indeed a tendency towards an alternative approach of development. Further research is suggested in order to expand on the findings.

UddannelserGlobal Studies, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato28 jun. 2016
VejledereKlaas Dykmann


  • Language
  • Development
  • Power
  • Empowerment