Untying Development’s Straightjacket: Masculinities, Sexualities and Social Change

10/09/2009 at 10:38 Leave a comment

If development really did justice to the diversity of people’s social and sexual identities, livelihoods and living arrangements, how would it be different to the approaches we see today? What would be done differently? How can practitioners, activists, academics and policy actors concerned with challenging and changing oppressing gender and sexual norms work together to loosen development’s “straightjacket”? What is needed – in terms of knowledge, skills, practices, alliances – to enable those who seek to bring about positive social change to address the violence and oppression that development policies and practice may implicitly sustain because of a failure to recognise or engage with those who do not conform to taken-for-granted norms, and work together to make the world a fairer place?

PLRI members are attending a four-day symposium in Cape Town from the 18-22 September, which will bring together theorists, researchers, activists, policy actors and practitioners working on gender and development, men and masculinities, HIV prevention, gender violence and sexual rights. It will be convened as a collaborative initiative involving a number of programmes co-ordinated by the Institute of Development Studies in the UK – Participation and Development Relations, Sexuality and Development, Pathways of Women’s Empowerment, HIV and Development – in partnership with Sexuality Studies at York University in Canada, the Dissident Men Programme, UNDP and UNAIDS.The focus of the symposium will be both on addressing the limits to thinking and the limits of practice, and on finding ways towards greater recognition of sexual and gender diversity, and more active engagement in addressing the oppressive effects of dominant norms about gender and sexuality. By stimulating dialogue across fields and communities of practice, the symposium will seek to catalyse exchanges that can generate new networks, ideas, connections and opportunities for collaboration.

Three key questions will guide this dialogue:

  • How are binary ideologies of gender and sexuality being produced and subverted by social, economic and political institutions operating nationally and trans-nationally? And how do these ideologies shape the implicit and explicit assumptions that are made about the gender and sexualities of those in whose name and for whose purported benefit development organizations operate? What are the consequences for those who do and who do not conform to the norm?
  • To what extent have existing development interventions seeking greater justice and equality – such as those associated with Gender and Development, the Men and Masculinities field, Rights-Based Development, empowerment and participation – served to challenge or reinforce these assumptions and their consequences?
  • How can development policies, programme and practices be refashioned so as to actively address the harmful effects of oppressive norms of gender and sexuality? What has worked to do this and what can be learnt from it? And what is needed, concretely, if we are to untie development’s straightjacket and pursue ways of doing development and HIV/AIDS work that can be both more just and respectful of diversity and difference and more effective at transforming oppressive structures and relations of power?

The symposium will be organized so as to make maximum use of the opportunities for dialogue, debate and exchange of experience. The number of places at the symposium will be limited so as to ensure in-depth discussion and exchange. All participants will be asked to address one or more of these questions by contributing a short paper based on activist and/or practitioner experience, empirical research or thinkpieces addressing conceptual issues. These will be circulated prior to the symposium, and provide one of the inputs for structuring the agenda. Bursaries are available to support participants who do not have institutional funding.

If you would like to attend and or any enquiries concerning logistics, visas etc., please complete the attached application form and return it to Stephen Wood at s.wood@ids.ac.uk. For any other enquiries, please contact Andrea Cornwall on a.cornwall@ids.ac.uk.


Entry filed under: gender and sexuality, health, HIV and AIDS, human rights and law, research. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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