Questioning inequality at the 2017 International Development symposium
Text by Maria Olsen and Anni Piiroinen, photos by Sailja Jain
This year’s MA students of International Development in the University of Warwick organised the annual development symposium on Wednesday 15 March 2017, titled ‘Questioning Inequality’. The day started off with a key note lecture by Professor Emma Crewe from SOAS, which discussed hierarchies in connection to knowledge, especially in the realm of development work. With examples from her own experiences of working in the field, Professor Crewe pointed to the problematic nature of many development projects and relationships between Western expatriate development workers and their local colleagues. The lecture was not only fascinating but also deeply necessary for a group of students, many of whom may consider working in development NGOs.
The day continued with three panels, which examined different forms of inequality. The first panel focused on gender inequality, including presentations from Opeyemi Adesanya, Sailja Jain, Anastasia Balandina and Madiha Shekhani. The presentations touched on diverse issues, such as sexual violence, the gender pay gap, fighting gender inequality through business-supported education programmes and intersectionality.
After a tasty buffet lunch, the symposium continued with the second panel, which looked at economic inequalities. The presentations were given by Aistė Jotautytė, Anni Piiroinen and Zeeshan Hanif. Together these presentations discussed the importance of inequality in reproducing poverty, the impacts of capitalism on inequality and the contributions that global value chain analysis can make to understandings of inequality.
The final panel discussed inequality in Asia. The three panelists were Edouard Leonet, Maria Elena Olsen and Thomas Grafton. Edouard gave an interesting presentation about microfinance and how it could be used to tackle inequality in East Asia. Maria talked about how the persistence of poverty can be explained by inequality within the Philippines, while Thomas’s presentation looked at the connection of inequalities to political transformations in Thailand.
The day finished off with closing remarks from Professor Shirin Rai. This marked the end of this year’s International Development module. The breadth of topics discussed in the symposium were a testament to the diverse topics examined during the module, and to the curiosity and critical outlook of students. None of it would have been possible without the support and encouragement of Professor Rai, who has pushed her students to question not only inequality but other aspects of international development too.