Sodas as Boundary Objects in Development Practice

Authors: Daniel Abrahams*, University of South Carolina
Topics: Political Geography, Development, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Development, Africa, Implementation, Boundary Objects, Practice, Applied
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Balcony B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For those familiar with development practice, sodas are easily overlooked as the empty calories that
satiate ‘beneficiaries’, local officials, and project partners during community meetings and mid-afternoon
breaks. However, a closer examination of their role in development reveals that far from frivolous, sodas
are powerful boundary objects that help govern agency-community relations, can be a bellwether for
program efficacy, and are a core component of the development of a marketplace that increasingly
commodifies the time and attention of those receiving development programming. This paper, which is
grounded in eight months of fieldwork conducted in Karamoja, Uganda alongside the international
development agency Mercy Corps, critically examines the role of sodas in development. Using multiple
examples where the presence and absence of sodas was explicitly addressed in the context of
interactions between development practitioners and communities receiving programming, this paper
explores how this seemingly quotidian aspect of program implementation and stakeholder engagement is,
in fact, deeply representative of the politics, barriers, and contradictions of development.

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