White Saviorism in International Development: Theories, Practices and Lived Experiences

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    Various Authors

    Publisher: Daraja Press

    Year: 2023


    Size: 264 pages

    ISBN: 978-1-990263-18-7

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This captivating volume dives into the complexities of racism and White Saviorism in North/South relations. With contributions from 19 experts across the Global South, this book examines its prevalence within Western initiatives for international development. Through a blend of theoretical topics, testimonies, stories and personal experiences these contributors shed light on implicit as well as explicit forms of White Saviorism – all with sensitivity to broaden an understanding through multi-dimensional approaches that truly transcend borders.

Edited by: Themrise Khan, Kanakulya Dickson, Maïka Sondarjee

What People Are Saying

Combining praxis-informed theorization and accounts grounded in authors’ own experiences in the White Savior Industrial Complex, these succinct and accessible chapters bring the realities of racial capitalism in international development to life. I was both educated and enraged! — Alana Lentin, author of Why Race Still Matters

This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand how many people contribute to upholding an oppressive White supremacist global system. — Amiera Sawas, Researcher and Advocate

This is a terrific work of deep unmasking and engagement with the proverbial but the always invisible elephant in the room of international development, that of the White gaze—correctly rendered here as the “industrial-colonial-patriarchal-White savior complex.” Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, author of Epistemic Freedom in Africa: Deprovincialization and Decolonization

White Saviorism in International Development unveils the hypocrisies undergirding development projects led by the Global South for the Global South. … It examines the intimate linkages between coloniality, development, and White Saviorism.— Jairo I. Fúnez-Flores, Texas Tech University

White Saviorism in International Development is an important and timely book that should be read by all international development students and practitioners. — Dylan Mathews, CEO Peace Direct, Chairperson CIVICUS Alliance

Table of Contents


Olivia Alaso with Wendy Namatovu vii

Introduction: Why White Saviorism?

Kanakulya Dickson, Themrise Khan & Maïka Sondarjee 1


1 Indigenous Cultures and the Industrial-Colonial-Patriarchal White Savior Complex

Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas 27

2 Evaluation and the White Gaze in International Development

Sadaf Shallwani and Shama Dossa 42

3 The Warrior Logic of the White Savior

Leila Benhadjoudja 63

4 The Matriarchy Complex: White Feminist Disruption in Development

Themrise Khan 79

5 False Consciousness and the Phenomenology of White Saviorism

Kanakulya Dickson 98

6 Epistemological Underpinnings and Emancipatory Insights on White Saviorism in Development

Kizito Michael George 116

7 Imposition and Reproduction of White Saviorism in Haiti

Rose Esther Sincimat Fleurant 129

8 The White Saviorism, Corporate Sector and Land Rights in Central Uganda

Robert Kakuru 140


9 White Saviorism, Green Colonialism and Sea Shepherd

Fernando David Márquez Duarte 159

10 Today as Yesterday, the ‘Savior Complex’ of Europeans

Anonymous 1 166

11 SUVs, Hotels and Faith: Experiences of White Privilege

Amjad Mohamed Saleem 173

12 Macaulayputras and the ‘Brown Saviors’ in the World Bank’s Advisory Services: A Story

Anonymous 2 181

13 ‘H’ is for Heroes With Hologram Haloes: A Testimony of

Saviorism and Ministry

Chongo Beverly Anne Mwila 191

14 The ‘Local’ and White Saviorism in the Caribbean

Jody-Ann Anderson 198

15 Protecting Daughters for Gender ‘Empowerment’

Radha Shah 209

16 The White Savior Complex in International Cooperation

Initiation Mandates

Eddy Michel Yao 219


17 The Common Threads of White Saviorism

Themrise Khan and Maïka Sondarjee 229


About the Contributors 245

About the Contributors
Jody-Ann Anderson is a Ph.D. candidate at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. Her research focuses on how institutions, like the police, can sustainably transform in contexts of increasing complexity. She has worked and currently works on various issues that include, but are not limited to, youth development, violence reduction, disaster risk reduction / climate change, White Saviorism, policing and security sector reform. She maintains hope for a peaceful and just world where all people, regardless of race, gender, citizenship, etc., can realize their full potential.
Leila Benhadjoudja is an anti-racism feminist and holds a doctorate degree in Sociology. Her research focuses on racism and anti-racism in Quebec, and her main publications focus on Islamophobia and Muslim feminism. She is the co-founder of the Feminist Festival in Ottawa and works as a professor at the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa.

Shama Dossa is Manager of Learning and Evaluation at Fenomenal Funds, a Feminist Funding Mechanism and associate professor in Social Development and Policy at Habib University, Karachi, Pakistan. She is a community development practitioner, researcher and academic with a specific interest in gender, disaster, reproductive health and rights in the Asia–Pacific region. Her work explores the link between theory and practice, drawing on arts-based and participatory methodologies. She is currently the Chair of the Board for Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre, one of Pakistan’s oldest feminist organizations.

Fernando David Márquez Duarte is a Mexican decolonial activist and thinker from the Abya Yala. He has a B.A. in International Relations with an Honorific Mention from UABC and an M.Sc. in Regional Development from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF) with a CONACYT scholarship. He is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. Political Science program at the University of California Riverside (UCR) with a Fulbright García Robles scholarship and the Dean’s Fellowship. He has more than five years of teaching experience in different universities in México and the USA. Currently, he teaches at UCR. He has academic articles published in indexed journals of México, Brazil, Ecuador, Russia, Germany and the UK, and book chapters in México and Spain. He has advised and supported Indigenous groups such as the Triquis and Cucapáh Indigenous communities in Baja, California, México regarding Indigenous rights and political participation. He has also worked with the resistance in the defence of water in Baja, California, with a participatory action-research project. He is proficient in Spanish, English, Portuguese and Náhuatl languages.

Kizito Michael GEORGE is a lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Kyambogo University. He holds a Master of Philosophy degree in gender and development from the University of Bergen (Norway) and obtained a Ph.D. in development ethics from Makerere University in 2019. Dr. Kizito is a member of the American Philosophy Association (APA) and the International Development Ethics Association (IDEA). His research interests include development ethics, Pan-Africanism, White Saviorism, human rights, poverty eradication, gender, jurisprudence and African philosophy.

Robert Kakuru is a lecturer of Human Rights in the Department of Philosophy, Makerere University, and holds a Ph.D. in Human Rights, a Master of Arts in Human Rights and a Bachelor of Development Studies. He has experience in lecturing / teaching, research and providing consultancy services. His core areas of teaching and research are natural resources and property rights, children’s rights, international and regional human rights regimes, research methods, human rights monitoring, evaluation and reporting and theories of human rights. His consultancy engagements include policy research, strategic planning and management, program development, management, monitoring and evaluation, organization management, capacity-building and training, transparency and accountability, organizational capacity assessments, program evaluations, systems analysis and development, programming and organizational resource mobilization.

Kanakulya DICKSON (editor) is a lecturer at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Philosophy, Makerere University. He holds a Ph.D. (Makerere, Uganda), Licentiate (Linköping, Sweden), M.A. Philosophy (Bergen, Norway) and B.A. (Makerere, Uganda). He has research interests in philosophy, ethics and governance. He has experience in collaborative research with national and international partners resulting in several publications. Dickson is co-editor of this volume.

Themrise KHAN (editor) is an independent development professional with over 25 years of experience in international development, gender, social policy and global migration. She has worked with several bilateral and multilateral agencies and international civil society organizations globally. Her main expertise lies in leading qualitative thematic and policy research studies and summative and formative evaluations of development programming. She has published both academically and as a research practitioner, including for the University of Ottawa Press and Routledge, as well as global think tanks and development agencies, on issues ranging from development aid intervention in fragile states to female labor migration. She is also a regular writer of op-eds and thematic pieces for various print and online mediums on development assistance, migration and gender. She has degrees from York University, Canada, and the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. She is based in Pakistan. Themrise is co-editor of this volume.

Chongo Beverly Anne MWILA is an intersectional feminist and driven communication and advocacy professional who has been actively involved in interventions for the empowerment and advancement of women, children and young people since her mid-teens in the early 2000s. Since 2012, she has worked extensively on USG, USAID, United Nations systems and other donor-funded programming for girls’ equitable access to education, advocacy efforts to increase all young people’s (including those living with disabilities) access to relevant Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information and services, and capacity-building programs to reduce women’s socio-economic vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and HIV. Chongo holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Simon Fraser University and began pursuing a master’s degree in development studies from the University of Lusaka in 2021. Based in Lusaka, Zambia, she is currently juggling communications-based consultancies for clients around gender and SRHR.

Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas has been a political advisor to the vice presidency of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), a representative in Canada of the Federation of Peasant Workers of the Department of La Paz–Tupaj Katari and president of the Peoples Support Group of the Americas (GAPA), Canada. He was a researcher for the North-South Institute (INS) and the Canadian Development Research Centre (IDRC), and a number of development-related non-government organizations (NGOs). He holds two bachelor’s degrees: one in economics, specializing in economic development, and one in communication studies, specializing in mass media development. He also holds a master’s degree in Diplomacy and a Ph.D. degree in International Relations from the Diplomatic Academy of Bolivia. He has been OPIRG leading elder and created the Indigenous Constitution exercise, anti(O)pression training, decolonization and indigenization workshops. He has been a professor at the University of Ottawa for the past 15 years and is currently teaching for the Institute of Indigenous Studies.

Amjad Mohamed SalEem is a political scientist with extensive knowledge of peace-building, humanitarian affairs and development work. He has a particular interest in interfaith engagement and a focus on South Asia. He is currently focused his work on decolonization, anti-racism and dealing with diversity and inclusion within the multilateral sector. He has worked for different organizations on peace-building and humanitarian action. He is a regular contributor to different media posts and an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Programme and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. He has published in several journals, chapters in several books and published a book in 2008 entitled Lessons from Aceh. Amjad has an M.Eng. from Imperial College, London; an MBA from U21Global, Singapore; and a Ph.D. from Exeter University.

Radha SHAH is a social anthropological researcher with a background in south Asian studies who has worked for non-profits in Canada, Pakistan and Hong Kong. Her area of expertise spans rights advocacy for ethnic minorities, women, prisoners and migrant workers.

Sadaf Shallwani conducts and facilitates participatory research and knowledge generation from Global South perspectives in the areas of early childhood development, primary education, child rights and the effectiveness of grassroots civil society. Sadaf has two decades of research, evaluation and program development experience, including extensive work with different agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network in East Africa, South Asia and Central Asia. She has also designed and led several child development programs and research projects in Canada. Currently, Sadaf serves as Director of Learning and Evaluation at Firelight Foundation, where she plays a key role in the organization’s efforts to shift power closer to community-based organizations and their communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, embrace and operationalize community-driven systems change and support communities to develop and carry out their own Indigenous and participatory approaches to evaluation and learning.

Rose Esther Sincimat Fleurant has been a professor at the Université d’État d’Haïti (UEH) for more than 15 years. She completed her doctoral studies in social sciences at the UEH and holds a DEA in Gender, Population and Development. She completed her master’s studies at the Faculty of Ethnology and has a degree in social communication. An expert / consultant in gender and local development, she has had a career in Haitian public administration. Committed to the fight for the respect of human rights, particularly women’s rights, for over 25 years, she has been a facilitator / trainer and mobilization agent in education for responsible citizenship. She has provided technical support to numerous socio-community organizations, women’s associations and youth associations in various municipalities of the Republic of Haiti. Former Director General of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights (MCFDF), she has also worked as a consultant and advisor on various technical and / or political issues in her expertise for local and international institutions. As a researcher in social sciences, she works on public policies, social movements (particularly women’s movements), gender relations, population and local development.

Maïka Sondarjee (editor) criticizes North / South inequalities from an anti-capitalist, anti-colonial and feminist viewpoint. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, and she is an assistant professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. Her first book (Perdre le Sud. Décoloniser la Solidarité Internationale, 2020) was nominated for the Prix des Libraires du Québec. She is also a regular contributor for the Canadian newspaper Le Devoir. Maïka is co-editor of this volume.

Eddy Michel YAO is a candidate for the master’s degree in International Development and Humanitarian Action Management at the Université Laval. He is originally from the Ivory Coast and is currently a volunteer project manager in Senegal. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Graduate Diploma in Management from HEC, Montreal. He is particularly interested in north–south relations and African issues. He is at the service of communities in the south in order to build a more equitable world and develop their resilience in the face of crises situations.

Hikmatullah Kharoti (front cover design) is a still and motion designer at Da Afghanistan Bank (Central Bank of Afghanistan) and holds an associate degree in graphic design. He was born in Helmand, Afghanistan. His recent works focus on digital payment and how to make Afghanistan cashless and free from fraud. He has given presentations to the President of Afghanistan, H.E. Ashraf Ghani, on TV Ads, motion videos, social media designs, print designs and narration. He was presented the creative designer award by H. E. Ajmal Ahmadi, governor of Central Bank of Afghanistan (DAB) and awarded the Future plan: ‘To Make a World Where no one Become Someone’ fellowship.

Tags: africa ....... anti-imperialism ....... asia ....... Caribbean ....... Daraja Press ....... ecology ....... feminism ....... Kanakulya Dickson ....... latin america ....... Maïka Sondarjee ....... racism ....... south asia ....... Themrise Khan .......