World Development

World Development today is a contested concept, and one that provokes debate across the board. Culture Wars is bringing together reviews of books and the arts, to engage with everything from globalisation to slum cities, from consumerism to international aid.

Questions dealt with throughout these reviews include: following massive economic growth from China and India, are we seeing a new distribution of power on the world stage? How should we respond to the perceived costs of development such as global warming and the erosion of communities? And what are the best models for growth?

Friday 20 May 2011

I know a dirty word

Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life, Wellcome Collection, London

It makes you wonder, if we were all left to clean up after ourselves, from our houses and gardens to our schools and streets, whether we’d be so pernickety about that spot of dust on the kitchen surface, or that banana peel in the corner.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Yeh hai Bambai meri jaan!

Mumbai Fables, by Gyan Prakash (Princeton University Press 2010)

The promise of the city, like that of Independence, was real – and perhaps still is. There is a tragic quality to Prakash’s account, but the gradual demise of the Modernist dream in the second half of the twentieth century should not be seen as inevitable or even, perhaps, final.

Monday 21 March 2011

Civilisation is power

Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World, British Museum, London

This exhibition reminds us that international involvement and influence in Afghanistan are nothing new. Like Belgium and Poland it has - because of its geographical location - found itself an unwilling cockpit in world affairs, the fate of countries when caught between competing power blocks. It also shows that cross-border trade is a centuries-old activity: it helped to bring about the ideas and art which these exhibits exemplify.

Monday 31 January 2011

Exploring the Concrete Jungle

Interview with film-maker Katerina Cizek

While Out My Window seems to affirm the postmodern rhetoric of alienation and isolation we are all familiar with, it is worth asking if Cizek’s account of postmodern life actually fits this description. By visually uniting these social realms in the webdoc’s physical presentation she has cleverly interrogated the reality of the perceived split. For the most part, she reminds us that we do participate in the two worlds simultaneously most of the time.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Rethinking Asia

Adapting to a different world view

Buy a world map in China, and China (the Middle Kingdom) is in the centre; not ragged islands on the edges of Europe, fringed by a small sea. We have not come to terms with Asia’s rise, and can have no conception of what it means for us (beyond, perhaps, a nagging anxiety that it can’t be good). As power shifts to the twin giants of China and India, we can only realise we are small, and what we think might not matter very much.

Thursday 11 November 2010

The brahminical brain

The Story of My Assassins, by Tarun J Tejpal

Just like poor Kabir, language is the undoing of Tejpal: you simply cannot believe that a writer who uses English so inventively and richly despises the canon as much as he claims. Perhaps, like one of his many characters, he is enjoying denouncing it with the one hand while using the other to nab a share for himself.

Mobility tomorrow: just take a cab!

On the future of innovation

Government, economists and product developers would be well advised to concentrate on those recommendations made by futurologists that consider the wishes of the user. The needs of the customer decide whether a technological innovation becomes successful or not, and the user prefers those innovations that improve upon existing technologies in the fields of energy, communications and mobility by dissolving the tensions between robustness, safety and cost-effectiveness without any compromise.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Traces of the future

Walid Raad: Miraculous Beginnings, Whitechapel Gallery, London

To say that Raad’s work occurs in the space between truth and fiction is a cliché that doesn’t give the work the merit it deserves. A far better way of describing it is that it explores the space between the latent and manifest aspects of Lebanese culture and history.

Friday 3 September 2010

Grow your own?

Urban Farming: The future of food or Arcadia on the cheap?

Viewed in historic terms, this seems like an aristocratic attack on the bourgeoisie. Think I’m joking? Prince Charles is a big fan of urban agriculture, with good reason. He has large estates that he has every interest in keeping out of the reach of the masses.

Thursday 19 August 2010

The internet: made for Islam?

iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam, by Gary R Bunt (Hurst & Company, 2009)

But what of the ostensible contradiction between Islam and modernity? Far from being in antithesis to Islam, the internet is entirely germane to a religion that has always been ‘wiki’ in its nature.

Monday 16 August 2010

The legacy of Brutalist vitality

The People’s Republic of Hulme, BBC Radio 4 / English Heritage: Romancing the Stone, BBC2

Yet Kermode and many other Hulme residents found something to celebrate in this dystopian existence. A transient and extraordinarily vibrant mix of people descended upon Hulme as the opportunity for cheap or free housing in the very heart of Manchester led to waves of youthful creative energy.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Goods are good

Ferraris for All: In Defence of Economic Growth, by Daniel Ben-Ami (Policy Press, 2010)

The implication of Ferraris is that the incessant focus on limits of all kinds today is about the idea of, the necessity for, limits per se rather than specific limits themselves. Any attempt to argue that such and such a particular limit – the ‘tyranny of oil’ – can be overcome – with biofuels - will be countered almost immediately with another limit – a claimed shortage of land.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Guilty fantasies

The Tyranny of Guilt, an Essay on Western Masochism, by Pascal Bruckner (Princeton University Press, 2010)

Moreover, it’s noteworthy that for all his shrewd criticism of the way the left projects its fantasies onto the Israel-Palestine conflict, Bruckner himself was a keen supporter of the break up of Yugoslavia and the punishment and demonisation of Serbia during the 1990s. Bruckner failed utterly to understand that the left (and indeed many on the right such as himself) were projecting a fantasy onto the Yugoslav break up and war.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Reactionary, reified, religious and revoltingly inhumane

Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change, by Clive Hamilton (Earthscan, 2010)

Hamilton starts his chapter on ‘denial’ by recounting the tale of the ‘cognitive dissonance’ suffered by a 1950s doomsday cult whose apocalyptic predictions failed to materialise; an ironic choice for a thinker in a tradition which has consistently predicted (as yet unrealised) ecological disaster since the 1790s.

Friday 11 June 2010


A short essay on the future of South Africa, and football.

South Africa is ready but there is a long way to go before they achieve their dream goal.

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