Early View Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

The Geography and Rhetoric of Foreign Aid

by Fiona Ferbrache

Children in Need, the annual charity appeal and high-profile telethon, was broadcast by the BBC on Friday evening.  Around the British Isles, people danced, sang and entertained to raise money towards the appeal. By the end of the televised coverage, £26,332,334 had been contributed, although the final total is likely to be much higher (last year’s event raised around £40,000,000).  This financial aid is then distributed among many organisations in support of disadvantaged children in the UK.

It is timely, then, to consider Mawdsley’s article on aid at a more global scale.  In TIBG, Mawdsley argues that Southern development actors (China and India, for example), sending foreign aid to places such as Africa and other parts of Asia, are bringing about changes to geographical understandings of development.  Mawdsley urges readers to consider how Southern countries construct aid rhetoric, in comparison with the language used by more traditional (Western) actors.  For example, the term ‘donor’ is resisted by many Southern development actors that, Mawdsley argues, are keen to avoid replicating the hierarchical donor/recipient relations associated with Western foreign aid.  The author’s analysis is developed through the lens of ‘gift theory’ with its cultural notions of giving, receiving and reciprocity.

What we call things matters, argues Mawdsley, and the way in which Southern development partners construct themselves is ultimately challenging conventional understandings of critical development geography.

  Deacon, M. (2011) Children in Need, BBC One & BBC Two, Review. The Telegraph

  Mawdsley, E. (2011) The changing geographies of foreign aid and development cooperation: contributions from gift theory. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00467

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