Book chapters

  • with Irene Guijt, Chpt 1 Eyben and Guijt draft  in (eds) R. Eyben, I Guijt, C. Roche and C. Shutt  The Politics of Evidence and Results, Practical Action Publishing (f2015) 
  • (2011) ‘The sociality of international aid’  in (ed) D.Mosse Adventures in Aidland  The anthropology of professionals in international development Berghahn Books: 139-160 . I capture the critical connection between policy thought and social relationships in a study of a local donor community that finds an ethnographic voice from within professional spheres of practice.

(2011) Participation in international aid’ in (eds) A.Cornwall and I. Scoones Revolutionizing Development. Reflections on the work of Robert Chambers London, Earthscan:  59-66.

A critical historically informed examination of Chambers’ influence in international aid practice and discourse.

This is my principal methodological paper about the challenges of researching aid donors, one that positions the anthropologist as a reflexive auto-ethnographer, retaining empathy for the insider’s position while sufficiently distanced to cultivate a critical faculty.


An actor-oriented approach to the construction of policy text, this is a lively account of a succession of glossy booklets, illuminates the discursive politics of gender mainstreaming inside a development organisation.

  • (2007) ‘Labelling people for aid’ in (eds) J. Moncrieffe and R. Eyben The Power of Labelling London, Earthscan:  33-47

Introducing into print, Apthorpe’s idea of Aidland,  I analyse  why labels such as ‘the poor’ matter so much in development practice and identify the special characteristics of aid bureaucracies that reinforce the power of labelling.

Developed from my widely cited IDS Bulletin article ‘Donors learning difficulties’, this chapter initiated three lines of work that I subsequently developed into (i) my research on feminist bureaucrats (Feminists in Development Organizations) (ii) an academic critique of results based management and a policy influencing strategy – the Big Push Forward – and the subsequent Politics of Evidence and Results and (iii) ‘Hiding Relations. The Irony of International Aid’, EJDR, 2010.


I argue the importance of an insider ethnographic perspective to highlight the political contradictions and challenges in the aid relationship making innovative use of two voices – my own (the principal author) and Leon’s to tell the story from different perspectives, a methodology I was thereafter to use experimentally in my work with the DAC that I analyse in a forthcoming publication. .

  • 2005  ‘Donors, rights-based approaches and implications for global citizenship: a case study from Peru’ in Kabeer, N. (ed) Inclusive Citizenship, London: Zed Books: 251-268

Through a case study of DFID’s programme in Peru, problematizes the pursuit of rights- based approaches by foreign governments in aid recipient countries, identifying paradoxes, dilemmas and possible ways forward.

Introduces positionality and reflexivity into concepts of power and empowerment and develops thesis of donors as political actors.

This chapter is popular on university reading lists and was innovative in introducing  a discussion of multiple accountabilities that I subsequently developed in my working paper on mutual accountability (2008).

Written while still in Bolivia it represents my early thinking in the development of a relational approach to aid operations.


One thought on “Book chapters

  1. Nadia Cherif

    In the article “How Can Donors Become More Accountable to Poor People?” (Eyben and Ferguson, 2002), it is proposed that bilateral aid agencies are accountable to five categories of institution or persons: taxpayers in the donor country; government in the donor country; government in the recipient country; poor people in the recipient country; and the international human rights framework.

    I understood that civil society and local organisations of the recipient country are included in the “poor people in the recipient country” category.

    However, don’t you think, especially if we are looking at the accountability of donor with the rights lens, that we should have a distinct category for organisations in the recipient country with which the donor has a contractual relation with? In this category, we would find the donor’s grantees, that receive financial support in the form of grants, to implement development projects. This relation, donor/grantee, is particular, as it has at its basis a legally binding instrument (a contract) that is signed with the objective to positively impact the development of the concerned country. However, at the same time, this relation is extremely unbalanced in rights and in power with the donor being the strong part and the grantee the weak one. I have witnessed and experienced this inequity in power and in rights throughout my professional career several times.

    Do you think it can be interesting to look more deeply into the relation between a donor and its grantees (especially when the grantee is a local organisation) and research the potential impact of the unbalanced contractual and power relation on the efficiency of the grantee’s action? Especially since a majority of donors have granted civil society a crucial role in Development and placed theses actors as key ones to translate the RBA into practice…

    Thanks a lot for your work, past and future, and for sharing your thoughts on this point or advising readings that could help me with these questions. 🙂


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