The Whiteness of Power

Racism in Third World Development and Aid

Apr 2003

This book examines the way in which much ‘third world’ aid, far from contributing to the prosperity of recipient countries, helps to shore up global relations of domination and subordination. In particular, Goudge focuses on the role played by ‘race’ in discourses and practices of development, and on the impact of unacknowledged - and often unconscious - assumptions of white, Western superiority. For example, the unequal distribution of resources that results from global power imbalances is often attributed to the inferior capabilities of the black poor.

Goudge worked for some years as a volunteer in a ‘third world’ country - in her case, Nicaragua - and this book is the result of her subsequent reflections and research. The core of her evidence comes from in-depth interviews with development and aid workers, as well as her own experiences and diaries. She also explores other related texts to illustrate that development and aid practitioners and agencies do not operate in a vacuum, but are a part of a pervasive discourse of superiority and inferiority. She submits her material to stringent analysis and finds much evidence of unconscious attitudes of superiority - with uncomfortable echoes of the assumptions of the colonial epoch.

This is a courageous work, in which Goudge questions her own beliefs and actions as much as those of others. Indeed it is her contention that in scrutinising the motivations of those of us whose intentions are good, we can discover a great deal about the global operations of the power of whiteness.

Paulette Goudge is a former volunteer worker in Nicaragua, and is currently a freelance writer, trainer and lecturer. She is the (white) adoptive mother of a Nicaraguan child.