Beyond Governmentality: Building Theory for Weak and Fragile States


  • Priscilla Magrath



theory building, weak and fragile states, governmentality, international development, anthropology of development


Every discipline has its blind spots. In this discussion piece I suggest that International Development can help Anthropology address one of its blind spots, namely the problem of weak government. Whereas those working in international development encounter the effects of weak government in their daily work, anthropological theory offers limited analytical tools for these contexts. Rather than focusing on development’s many failings, perhaps it is time for Anthropology to adopt a more constructive approach, drawing on the experience of development workers to develop anthropological theory which can speak to the condition of contemporary weak states. 

Author Biography

Priscilla Magrath

Priscilla Magrath is enrolled in a PhD program in Medical Anthropology at University of Arizona, USA. This follows over 20 years’ experience working in international development. Her dissertation research, focusing on client responsiveness and public accountability in the delivery of health services in Indonesia, involves an ethnography of a World Bank health project which the author worked on for several years.