‘Race’, Gender and Neoliberalism: Changing Visual Representations in Development

  • Citation: Wilson, Kalpana. "‘Race’, Gender and Neoliberalism: changing visual representations in development." Third world quarterly 32.2 (2011): 315-331.
    • Topics:
    • IR Theories
    • Keywords:
    • violence against women
    • feminism
    • gender construction
    • nongovernmental organizations
    • economic liberalism

This article examines the increasing use of ‘positive’, active images of ‘poor women in developing countries’ by development institutions, in relation to several interlinked factors: critiques of earlier representations of ‘Third World women’ as an essentialised category of ‘passive victims’; the appropriation—and transformation—within neoliberal discourses of development from the 1990s onwards of concepts of agency and empowerment; and changes in the role of development NGOs in the same period. Through a discussion of recent publicity campaigns by Oxfam Unwrapped, the Nike Foundation and Divine chocolate, the article examines the specific and gendered ways in which these more recent visual productions are racialised, exploring, in particular, parallels and continuities between colonial representations of women workers and today’s images of micro-entrepreneurship within the framework of neoliberal globalisation. The article concludes that, like their colonial predecessors, contemporary representations obscure relations of oppression and exploitation, and work to render collective challenges to the neoliberal model invisible.

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