Re-Centering Culture in Development Administration in Africa: Remedies for Nigeria

Re-Centering Culture in Development Administration in Africa: Remedies for Nigeria

Olabanji Akinola (University of Guelph, Canada) and Mopelolade Oreoluwa Ogunbowale (State University of New York – Buffalo, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0629-4.ch004
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Abstract

The role of culture in development remains controversial in the literature. However, within the African context, both historically and in contemporary times, arguments vilifying culture remain rife. This continues a process of decentering culture from the discourse and practice of development on the continent. This chapter argues against this trend and calls for a recentering of culture as a positive element in the administration of development in Africa. Drawing on the Nigerian experience, the chapter provides some remedies for the country in particular and the rest of Africa in general. The chapter maintains that without bringing culture back into the practice of development on the continent, current developmental challenges are likely to persist into the future.
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Culture And Development Administration: A Conceptual Framework

Defining culture is a herculean task for most scholars. This is due partly to the elusive nature of the concept in both theory and practice. At the same time, while generic conceptualizations abound, operationalizing culture into measurable variables remains a challenge in several respects (Keating, 2008). Nonetheless, attempts to define and operationalize culture continue. According to Hall (1997, p. 18), culture refers to peoples “shared meanings or shared conceptual maps.” In this wise, Hall (1997) argues the interactions of different individuals, groups and various societies are mostly constructed around their shared interpretations, ideas, and knowledge of certain things and events. Along this line, Wedeen (2003, p. 213) defines culture as “semiotic practices.” For Wedeen, conceptualizing culture as “semiotic practices” can be understood on two levels. One, “culture as semiotic practices refer to what language and symbols do” (emphasis in original) and two, “culture as semiotic practices is also a lens” through which people engage in meaningful interactions. When put together, semiotic practices according to Wedeen often entail “meaning-making” processes within which people infuse these practices with their own understanding and interpretations of their world.

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