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How is the third world represented in contemporary narratives of the twenty- first century?

Par   •  6 Décembre 2017  •  2 095 Mots (9 Pages)  •  138 Vues

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Michel Foucault explored the idea of discourse analysis as a vital component of total and profound understanding of a phenomenon in his discourse theory. In discourse theory knowledge is inseparably intertwined with power for the ideas we possess ultimately control our actions. Banda describes language and discourse as forming social reality rather than being reflection of it.[11]The very term ‘Third Word’ is a homogenous term that groups various peoples and their individual issues together, creating the idea of a mass of underdeveloped beings whose only identity is their struggle. The continued reinforcement of this idea by global society, proliferated by the media is without a doubt going to influence the psyche of an individual in a developing country. In her book Woman, Native, Other, Trinh T, Minh-ha quotes the proceedings from a meeting of women in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. An individual from that meeting is quoted saying ““We can only deplore the mechanism which favours the transfer to Africa of problems and their solutions, of certain institutions which result from a purely Western historical process.”[12]

It is a very unfortunate situation that the description and naming of all the varying nations that come under the umbrella term of ‘The Third World’ was external and not determined by the people themselves. And this is the continuing pattern in many aspects that relate to the third world, particularly so in terms of development.

Banda argues that

the concepts 'Third World' and 'development' are inventions of the economically rich nations of the West. In the same manner that 'the 'Orient' was created during the colonial era', a different terminology was used in the post-colonial period to designate the non-Western world using the language of development.[13]

Grouping less developed countries together by an all-encompassing narrative has also led to one-size-fits-all solutions from development agencies. Seeing the third world as a singular enigma has led to generalised resolutions such as the Millennium Development Goals. What the MDGs sought to achieve was enormous in size and complexity leading to only one goal being achieved out of the eight in a 15 year period of implementation.[14] In his 2012 article in the journal Professional Geographer, James Sidaway asked a controversial question, “Today, how useful is it to talk about the geography of development or of developing coutnries?” (Reference) It could be argued that this question is rarely asked by NGOs and development agencies, which explains as to why millions are going to development without any tangible outcome being seen. By ignoring the subtle yet vital differences between each country profile capital and resources are invested in areas that are not sustainably practical to the development of nation.

Even in general popular culture, third world countries are seen as the height of poverty and disadvantage. Visual images portrayed in the media, both the news and entertainment media; paint a destitute picture of the third world. Helen Yanacopulos describes the propagation of these images as ‘poverty pornography’ which focuses on children and women. The topic is further explored by Yanacopulos who states that “As the various analyses of images by those such as Cohn show, even in the mid – 1970s there were ‘images of helplessness, dependency and suffering in traditional starving child appeals, which were being denounced in terms relating them to necolonialisim by Inwell, who described them as “an allegory of pornography”.[15]

The image given by mainstream media of the third world gives individuals who have no other direct contact with the third world a specific image of the identities and peoples of the third world. As there is no secondary source of data, it will be assumed that what is presented is the truth thereby affecting how people from the third world are viewed and treated by those who do not fully understand their situation. Branson and Stafford expand on the potency of this concept:

“The media give us ways of imagining particular identities and groups which can have material effects on how people experience the world, and how they get understood, or legislated for or perhaps beaten up in the street by others…this is partly because the mass media have the power to re-present, over and over, some identities, some imaginings, and to exclude others, and thereby make them seem unfamiliar or even threatening”.[16]

Post-colonial theory seeks to give a voice to the ‘subaltern’ and challenge concepts such as colonial rhetoric that is still rife in contemporary international political discourse. By removing Western standards of progress or modernity from non-western paradigms it becomes a less daunting task to address the ‘problems’ apparent in the third world. Escobar highlights that “There is, then, an orientalism…that has to be unveiled – that is, a hegemonic effect achieved through representations that enshrine one view…while supressing others.”[17] Positive development discourse involves highlighting the qualities and assets within third world countries rather than their needs and shortcomings. This does not mean that there should be a total overlooking of the areas that need work, however there is a shift of focus from externally identified deficiencies to internally acknowledged potential.

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