Development Fiction

Exploring 'development' through all things fiction


Fiction, development, and policy

Why we still need to write about polio

Growing up, I remember a young woman, who lived down our lane, walking with a limp on her leg. I gradually learnt that this was as a result of polio, where one of her legs were shorter than the other, and that she had contracted the virus at a young age. I came to understand polio this way. But, that is all I knew about the virus.

Polio is rare. In fact, it is close to extinction, and this is seen in the numbers. Continue reading “Why we still need to write about polio”


The Global Gag Rule: Can writers join the resistance?

On February 28, PAI is calling on people from across the world to join ‘a day of action’ on Twitter to speak out against President Trump’s Global Gag Rule. Ahead of this twitter chat and twitterstorm, we ask, can writers join this resistance, that has, for too long, being a subject of political back-and-forth?

Every year, over 21 million women experience unsafe abortions around the world. A majority of such unsafe abortions occur in developing countries, and risks are even higher in conflict-affected contexts. Unsafe abortion is also among the main causes of maternal mortality. President Trump’s re-introduction of the Global Gag Rule has stirred further debate and action on the already widely contested issue of abortion, and overall, on concerns around women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, as well as women’s freedom of choice and empowerment.

Continue reading “The Global Gag Rule: Can writers join the resistance?”

FGM: Can fiction change the narrative?

“I just pray that one day no woman will have to experience this pain. It will become a thing of the past. People will say “Did you hear, female genital mutilation has been outlawed in Somalia?” Then the next country, and the next, and so on, until the world is safe for all women. What a happy day that will be, and that’s what I’m working toward. In’shallah, if God is willing, it will happen. ”

Waris Dirie, Desert Flower
Continue reading “FGM: Can fiction change the narrative?”

Crossing the Sea with Syrians on the Exodus to Europe

What is chilling about Wolfgang Bauer’s, Crossing the Sea with Syrians on the Exodus to Europe is that he is part of the group of refugees making the deadly journey from Egypt to Italy through sea and land. The journey takes place in April 2014, as Syria experiences widespread destruction, war, and religious hatred. With the worsening crises, the UN has “stopped counting the dead” (Bauer, 2016, p. 11). No proper identification documents and an uncertain political climate make the refugees’ journey even riskier.  Yet, for journalist, Bauer, and photographer, Stanislav Krupar there is further fear should their identities be discovered. Having “grown long beards and adopted new identities. For this journey we are English teachers Varj and Servat, two refugees from a republic in the Caucasus” (Bauer, 2016, p. 10).

Continue reading “Crossing the Sea with Syrians on the Exodus to Europe”

Women’s resistance movements in film: the Suffragettes and the Gulabi Gang (in light of women’s marches protesting Trump)

A day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the new US President, tens of thousands of women took to the streets across the United States and in more than 60 countries in protest. The new US President had previously, unashamedly, boasted about sexually assaulting women, while his brutal verbal comments at women, and his views on family planning have come under intense criticism. The marches were more widespread, however, in their message, promoting awareness of broader issues such as minority and disability rights. Such protests were seen as resonating other large-scale women’s resistance movements, particularly those such as the women’s suffrage movement.

In light of such protests and debates, I am drawn to two representations of women’s resistance movements in film: the 2015 British period-drama, Suffragette, and the 2010 documentary, Pink Saris that depicts the actions of the Gulabi Gang in India. The two productions are set almost a century apart, and in two vastly different regions. Yet, the issues they raise resonate even today. Continue reading “Women’s resistance movements in film: the Suffragettes and the Gulabi Gang (in light of women’s marches protesting Trump)”

Is fiction a representation or re-construction of reality

I briefly wrote about how, in early 2015, as part of a MA module that looked at critical approaches to development and social change, I worked on an essay exploring the role of fiction in development. I drew on two texts that have enjoyed wide success, recognition, and commendation since their publication; Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun.

Continue reading “Is fiction a representation or re-construction of reality”

Vienna – solidarity and heroes in times of turmoil

For me, Vienna is a treasure trove, where the political, social, cultural and the historic, intertwines to form a beautiful composition. To tread the paths of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn, among others, exploring the economic, political, and social conditions in which their most famed pieces were composed, performed and received, is indeed a treat. Yet, what is perhaps more intriguing is how these compositions can be re-read in today’s context.

Continue reading “Vienna – solidarity and heroes in times of turmoil”

Policy vs fiction

“We recognize that people are at the centre of sustainable development and, […] strive for a world that is just, equitable and inclusive” – Rio+20 Outcome Document, The Future We Want, 2012

Compare the above policy narrative with the below:

“My son walks 5 kilometres to his sister’s school to study English. He was going to be a doctor one day” – Solomon Vandy, Blood Diamond, 2006

Why development fiction – or what is?

Fiction fascinates me. A good book not only makes me curl up in bed and wander through its pages for days, but also makes me question what is being said. A couple of years ago, while taking a MA module that looked at critical perspectives on development and social change, I was particularly drawn to arguments around links between fiction and development. This led me to produce an essay exploring to what extent fiction can be considered a representation or reconstruction of reality. I was particularly drawn to development fiction – or rather, fiction that explored humanitarian and development-related issues, such as poverty, conflict, inequality, instability, women’s issues, class, ethnicity, etc.

Continue reading “Why development fiction – or what is?”

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