Workshop 1 - Melissa Leach, 'Experimenting with Development'

Melissa Leach (STEPS, University of Sussex) opened her presentation observing that it has long been said that Africa is a laboratory, used as a site for many projects that exemplify experimentality on a narrow scale – in the sense of clinical and field trials. Following this she argued more broadly that the development project can be seen as experiment, generating its own institutions and industry; its own experimental practices; its own ways of dealing with uncertainty, evaluating and reaching closure. Leach illustrated how more broadly still a far more global ‘experimental condition’ is exemplified, as the global systemic effects of interlocked, unpredictable changes become apparent (i.e. climate change, food and energy crises, pandemics). In her talk she offered some thoughts on how experimentality operates at each of these levels and made several cross-cutting observations and arguments that apply (in different ways) to all.

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