Science is said to have two aims: theory and experiment. Theories try to say how the world is. Experiment and subsequent technology change the world. We represent and we intervene. We represent in order to intervene, and we intervene in light of our representations….
This book explores the points at which “representations” turned into “interventions,” as theory and research were applied in practice. Defined this way, interventions, including development projects, are part of an ongoing process of knowledge formation and reproduction.
That is Helen Tilley in an excellent book on imperial/colonial Africa as a Living Laboratory. The book focuses on scientific research (both in the natural and social sciences) in Africa between 1870-1950 and is a must read for practitioners and academics interested in International Development.
Chapter 2 is on Africa as “A Development Laboratory” (and the origins of the Africa Survey – see image), and will leave you feeling like there is, at least for the most part, nothing new under the sun in International Development. William Easterly makes this point as well in the Tyranny of Experts.
Oh, and Tilley’s book has some good data on the intensity of colonial administration and public goods provision in areas such as medicine, agriculture and infrastructure development.