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Practicing gender: gender and development policy in South African organisations

Mannell, Jeneviève (2012) Practicing gender: gender and development policy in South African organisations. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This is a thesis about the relationship between gender policy and practice in South Africa, and its effects. Gender is a concept widely used in development policy, but little attention has been paid to precisely how development agents use gender policy in their practice. As a result, we know little about the significance or meanings practitioners attribute to gender policy, or how development actors adapt, transform or manipulate gender policy in their everyday work. Gaps in knowledge about how gender policy is put into practice in specific contexts have led to gaps in knowledge about what effects gender policy has on the politics of gender. This brings about two aims for this study: (1) to map the relationship between gender and development policy and practice in South Africa, and (2) to explore the effects of gender policy on gender politics. Following a multisite approach, this study looks at gender policy as a collection of ‘contested narratives’ (Shore & Wright 1997) about gender. The findings point to a conflict between three different policy frames being drawn on by policy actors as they try to assert their own understanding of gender, define the ‘problem’ that exists and the policies that are needed to solve it. This conflict may diminish the potential for a collective social movement for gender issues in South Africa. However, practitioners are not powerless implementers of policy, but rather use gender policy strategically in their practice by adopting, transforming and manipulating policy frames in a range of different tactical manoeuvres to suit their own objectives. Identifying the tactical manoeuvres being used by development practitioners in South Africa contributes new understandings of the fragmented ways that an alternative gender politics is currently being advanced by practitioners in this context.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Jeneviève Mannell
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Sets: Departments > Gender Institute
Supervisor: Campbell, Catherine

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