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Personal cooperation in development aid and socialist aid in the context of system competition

Research Newsletter (in German)

Link to Research newsletter “Development Policy During the Cold War” (October 2016)

Since half a century, the sending of experts shall enhance development in societies which seem in need of such an intervention from outside in order to remedy their under-development. Both competing world systems had developed their own concepts of "development" and corresponding practices of "development aid" claiming universal validity. This project aims to compare the development sector of both competing systems in the last phase of the Cold War on the level of the experts, consultants, and specialists sent to recipient countries in the frame of "technical assistance". "Technical assistance" respectively (later) "technical cooperation", or "scientific-technical cooperation" and "cultural-scientific cooperation" in the terminology of the GDR are all based on the underlying rationale that a lack of knowledge hems development. Accordingly, a knowledge transfer should eliminate such under-development, and hence experts are principally dispatched to the country in order to transfer knowledge. This transfer encompasses not only technical know-how but also those attitudes, practices, and behaviours that will lead to a sensible application of newly acquired know-how. On a larger scale, the integration in one of the competing world-systems was at stake. Development experts, consultants, and advisors are defined as the group of knowledge workers who professionally impart their application-specific knowledge in the field of development aid or in GDR-terminology in "socialist aid" respectively.
Core of the project is a comparison between development experts of the two German states. Levels of comparison shall be opened by leading questions: What types of experts were employed? Which tasks were they assigned to? Which aims and objectives did they pursue? Which lifestyles did these "itinerant" people West and East adopt in the countries of assignment? What was the range of officially prescribed and tolerated behaviours and everyday practices? Which attitudes, and practices vis-à-vis development did they have in common across system boundaries? Did they face similar problems in terms of transfer, and inter-cultural communication? Which cultural transfers occurred in daily life? Which role played the task to "develop" other people for the experts' own personal "development"?
The comparative approach of this project will highlight in which fields and how experts in the field operated transfers and how this process influenced them on their part. The idea is to compare the transfer of attitudes and practices on the ground. Special attention shall be given to the development experts' role in the dissemination of knowledge, attitudes, cultural practices, and lifestyles.
This project focuses on the development sectors of the two Germanies in countries in Africa and Latin America from the 1970s to the end of the socialist world system in 1990.



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