The book under review actually has two titles, both of which are equally apt and arresting. Titled Feminisms in Development: Contradictions, Contestations & Challenges it has its origins in a workshop ‘Gender Myths and Feminist Fables: Repositioning Gender in Development Policy and Practice’ organized by the Institute of Development Studies and the University of Sussex at Brighton in July 2003. This latter reason explains why the trope of myths and fables is recurrent in most of the essays. A significant aspect of using the lexicon of myths and fables is the possibility presented upfront of tracking and understanding how feminist concepts and analyses that at one point carried radical political charge in their orientation towards bringing overall social and cultural transformation became diluted when adopted by the development sector. The Introduction outlines the mandate of the book in these terms: This book attempts to put clear water between GAD [Gender and Development], as a particular form of gender and development practice and rhetoric, and the many different kinds of practices and discourses which make up the multiple field of feminist practice in gender and development. We argue that this is an essential move to repoliticize radical, feminist engagement with development (p. 15).
The forms of enquiry enabled by this framework acquire greater salience here precisely because they are carried out by feminist theorists, activists and development practitioners who bear the weight of experience and hindsight. They are for the most part self-reflexive and at times, self-critical; they are critical also of the bureaucracy and the patriarchal power clusters that determine policies and practice related to developmental aid.