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Sunday, 5 March 2006
I'm an expert?
Topic: Development
Paul tagged me in on the freshest meme to hit the internet: what five resources - online or otherwise - would you point people to, if you wanted to give them an entry into your field of expertise?

I've never really thought of myself as having a field of expertise. Maybe procrastination. I've honed my gift for it over many, many years. Similarly, I've been a student for many, many years. They fit together, those two fields. I suspect that's not quite what Paul had in mind, though.

Professionally, I never thought of myself as a microfinance 'expert', although it's the field I have the most experience in. A year of postgrad study is not sufficient to allow me to consider myself a 'gender expert', and I'm not sure what it takes to become one.

So, in the grand tradition of under-prepared students everywhere, I will take the original assignment, elide it to suit the minimal amount of work that I've done, and hope that I can write it all into an at least semi-coherent whole.

1. Grab attention in the intro: Best! URL! Ever! It can't win best non-e-mail web app until they fix the 'import bookmarks' problem issue, but all the same, I'm amazed at how quickly I've come to depend on del.icio.us. It's a helpful in any field of endeavor (including procrastination). Not only does it save all your bookmarks in one place and let you tag and search them, it also lets you see if anyone else has bookmarked the same page, and shows you their other bookmarks. This can be very helpful for discovering resources on a variety of topics - or just an entertaining distraction.

2. Lead in with a strong initial argument: A good all-purpose entry point into the field of microfinance is the Microfinance Gateway. It has an extensive on-line library, several discussion lists, a consultant database, listings of upcoming conferences and events - it's a solid effort at being a 'one-stop shop' for microfinance information, although the user interface and search functions can be a bit bewildering at first.

3. Introduce the topic you're not as strong on: For research in gender and development that is truly from a gender perspective, rather than a perspective in which 'gender'='women' (as is too often the case in practice), the Institute of Development Studies has some great resources (and interesting research in other fields, as well).

4. Tie your topics together to demonstrate that you're making intellectual connections: Linda Mayoux manages a suite of websites that are excellent resources for those who are interested in gender and microfinance beyond the argument that more credit=better lives for women. She's also known for her work on participatory approaches and impact evaluation, if microfinance isn't your thing. If gender isn't your thing, you're on the wrong blog.

5. Wrap it all up with a brilliant conclusion: Argh. This is always where I crap out. Informal polls of my friends indicate that I'm weird in finding the conclusion far more difficult to write than the introduction, but I've always found endings much more difficult than beginnings. I'm trying to think of a fifth resource, and I've got nothing.

But I want to get this posted, so I'm going to cheat. It doesn't really provide an entry into a particular field, but Chandra Mohanty's article 'Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses' (summary here, but be advised that the language is not plain and the page design is a bit eye-watering) has been a source I've returned to many times over the past year, because the attitude she critiques - that 'third world' women are victims who need to be saved, and that 'first world' women will save them - are still very much in evidence in feminism and in development. It's an attitude that disempowers women in the third world and uncritically promotes the superiority of 'Western' values. It's a valuable reminder of what I do not want my own work to be.

What are you an expert on: agnoiologist, DamselFish, k8teebug?

12:01 AM GMT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006 10:46 AM GMT

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