The goals of the research presented in this dissertation were to understand and analyze how communities in Andean Ecuador think about, initiate, and engage with their own community development. The study focused on health-related community development and its findings contribute to broader debates about what constitutes development and about how community members act as agents of their own development. The findings also resist the traditional discourse and practices of international development and complicate the ways in which U.S. university faculty educate students about global (health) development. The study was framed by decolonial theoretical approaches and the notion of cosmovisión Andina – an epistemology of the south – which I bring into conversation with the capability approach. Data collection was informed by ethnography, community-based participatory research, and the visual arts. The data collection method was photovoice, a form of participatory photography which enables co-researchers to build capacity in basic photography, after which they engage with the themes under investigation by capturing photos of parts of their daily lives and belief systems, which they then choose to bring forward for further explanation, discussion, and debate. I spent a total of four and a half months in Cantón Pedro Moncayo and during this time I also employed the ethnographic research methods of participant observation, interviewing, and document review. The study findings are presented here in two separate results chapters, the first of which deals with the characteristics of sumak kawsay/buen vivir, the way they appear in and condition everyday life, and the ways in which they have changed in the last two decades. These findings are analyzed in terms of embodiment, which can be thought of as a way of looking at the interaction between human bodies and their environments by regarding the body not just as an object, but an existential ground for culture. Embodiment presupposes certain ideas that also align with principles of Cosmo vision Andina, such that the human being is social and intersubjective, living in a community and an environment simultaneously, as well as within an evolving historical context. Particularities of embodiment appeared repeatedly in the co-researchers’ explanations of what it means to actively enact a good life and how these meanings are under tension, changing, and continually negotiated with a context of various internal and external development-related pressures. The second results chapter pertains to modes of participation and area programs and services which either operate to help co-researchers live in alignment with sumak kawsay/buen vivir or need improvement in order to do so. These study findings point to the ways in which co-researchers and their communities simultaneously work to produce and survive community development. What emerged was an interesting tension between the scale of services (both among governmental levels and within areas of parishes), citizen involvement in services, and their perceptions of the utility of their involvement. Issues of scale and friction help to problematize the effectiveness of sumak kawsay/buen vivir at a national versus a hyper-local scale and shed light on the sources of and possible solutions to frustrated development aspirations and cross-level community development collaboration. This study produced a number of implications for the fields of international development, global health, and U.S. higher education teaching and research in these disciplines. First, the study reinforces the need for a discourse and practice of development which centers hyper-local development, which is better aligned with the epistemologies and praxis of indigenous knowledges and represents a refusal of being coopted into discourses of sustainable or participatory development. Second, those working in health and development nonetheless need to expand their notions of what constitutes well-being. An enlargement of notions of well-being which is more aligned with the embodied characteristics of sumak kawsay counters the narrowmindedness of traditional economically-based notions of development. Third, and based on the previous two points, I argue that we must actively resist the single narrative of development and the single narrative of well-being in U.S. higher education institutions. Finally, I outline the ways in which visual research methods hold unique possibilities for advancing active participation and additional understanding of indigenous knowledges of well-being and practices of hyper-local development. I also outline the challenges which stem from an international, participatory, visual arts, and cross-language research study and how I dealt with these. What all of the study implications share is a decolonial focus on the absolute necessity of coupling concepts and praxis in resistance to the status quo, whether that be in development practice, health practice, teaching practice, or research.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2019. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Joan DeJaeghere. 1 computer file (PDF); xxiv, 412 pages.
Well-Being, Community Development, and Andean Worldview: An Analysis of Meanings and Changes in Pedro Moncayo, Ecuador using Photovoice.
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