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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - PhD thesis
Title Not “Just Staying”: How Health and Development Programming is Reshaping the Past, Present and Future for Rural Youth in Malawi
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
URL https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/43497/1/Classen_Lauren_S_101311_PhD_thesis.pdf
Drawing on ethnographic and visual anthropological data, this dissertation explores the anticipated and unanticipated effects of youth-targeted health and development programmes in rural Malawi. Contemporary development programmes are anticipatory in nature: they are focused on managing health, behaviour, education and social relations today in ways that are believed to open opportunities for some distant and better future. Working with rural youth who “just stay,” an idiom youth use to describe their “failure” to make progress towards desired futures, I show how discourses and ideals espoused in anticipatory programmes including human rights, education, gender and love are slippery concepts. As they percolate through this particular social, political, historical and demographic context and into the imaginaries of young people, these discourses often become something new and unexpected. In particular I show how: i) a discursive elision occurs between the rights discourse and other markers of modernity and youth take up their “right” to wear modern clothing and drink commercial alcohol, ii) selfish behaviours including alcoholism and womanising surface in boys’ self-constructions as innate iii tendencies rather than part of a socially produced and constantly shifting construction of masculinity, iii) audit cultures, critical to the operation of anticipatory programmes, reduce gender equality to something “countable,” which, in turn, alters programme activities, leads to performances by participants and filters into youth subjectivities, and iv) discourses on modern and “healthy” loves, free from HIV/AIDS, lead to re-arrangements in romantic relations and friendships that provide new and positive opportunities for women not always available in customary marriages. By privileging the future over the present and the past, programmes overlook numerous structural barriers to improving the lives of the youth who “just stay.” I argue that the unanticipated effects of these programmes constitute and give rise to several invisible forms of violence. On the other hand, however, some effects are generative of new and positive subjectivities and relationships that are egregiously overlooked by programmes. This ignorance prevents programmes from building upon positive effects to generate desired change and sometimes even undermines their own stated goals.

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