Building, or re-building, states after war or crisis is a contentious process. But why? Sabaratnam argues that to best answer the question, we need to engage with the people who are supposedly benefiting from international ‘expertise’.
This book challenges and enhances standard ‘critical’ narratives of statebuilding by exploring the historical experiences and interpretive frameworks of the people targeted by intervention. Drawing on face-to-face interviews, archival research, policy reviews and in-country participant-observations carried out over several years, the author challenges assumptions underpinning
external interventions, such as the incapacity of ‘local’ agents to govern and the necessity of ‘liberal’ values in demanding better governance. The analysis focuses on Mozambique, long hailed as one of international donors’ great success stories, but whose peaceful, prosperous, democratic future now hangs in the balance. The conclusions underscore the significance of thinking with rather than for the targets of state-building assistance, and appreciating the historical and material conditions which underpin these reform efforts.
1. Introduction / 2. Intervention, Statebuilding and Eurocentrism / 3. Strategies for Decolonizing Intervention / 4. The State Under Intervention / 5. Intervention and the Peasantry / 6. Anti-corruption Politics and the Limits of Intervention / 7. Conclusion: Decolonizing Intervention, Decolonizing International Relations
Dr. Sabaratnam has written an original and compelling book on the dialectics of international development practices in Mozambique. Based on sophisticated ethnographic research, combined with a superb grasp of the postcolonial and international relations literature, Decolonising Intervention will quickly establish itself as the benchmark for originality in de-colonial scholarship. Rarely does one find a book on critical international relations, and especially on state-building in Africa, written with such unrelenting clarity.
This powerful book provides a brilliant and devastating critique of international statebuilding interventions. Through a compelling analysis of the politics of intervention in Mozambique and the experiences of those whose lives are affected, Sabaratnam shows how relations of colonial difference have shaped and enabled these practices. Highly engaging and accessible, yet analytically incisive and authoritative, Decolonising Intervention is essential and indelible reading for international relations scholars, aid practitioners, and anyone concerned with questions of conflict, peace, justice and responsibility.
Indeed, if international relations as a discipline wants to take forward its aim of better understanding world politics, it can benefit greatly from Sabaratnam’s contribution to debates on the ‘coloniality of power’ and the much wider application of the decolonizing strategies it presents. Decolonising Intervention is an indispensable resource for those interested in the relationship between international intervention and statebuilding.
Meera Sabaratnam is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at SOAS, University of London.