Karen Treasure


Empowerment has emerged as a key focus of development policy and practices in the contemporary era, where simultaneously a need for 'development' is ascribed due to historically determined power relations imposed through discourse and intervention. This research enquires into the contradiction inherent in assuming an intemational agenda to empower those who are continually disempowered. Through analysis of a series of case studies of development projects in Zambia, this research argues that the potential of the empowerment agenda is inherently limited by the ongoing structural conditions of development. In the cases studied, community members successfiilly achieve a form of 'subjective empowerment' which enables them to assume a more powerful role within the boundaries of action determined by their possible frameworks of opportunity. But these forms of power do not hold the potential to create communities which are relatively more powerful on the global stage. Progression to a form of 'objective empowerment' is constrained by the boundaries to power which are imposed through historically set and continually recreated power relations within the global political economy.

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