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A Critical Exploration of Culture in International Development Evaluation

Jill Anne Chouinard, Rodney Hopson

Abstract


In this article we provide a comprehensive review of 71 studies on evaluation in international development contexts published over the past 18 years. The primary purpose of the review is to explore how culture is being conceptualized and defined in international development contexts and how evaluation practitioners,scholars, and/or policymakers who work in international development evaluation frame the role of culture and cultural context in these settings. In this article we ask: How is culture framed in the international development evaluation literature? To what extent do descriptions of evaluation (design, processes, and outcomes) reflect other knowledge and value systems and perspectives? Whose values and worldviews inform the evaluation design and methodology? How does the community’s cultural context inform the evaluation methodology and methods used? Based on our analysis, we identify and discuss five themes: the manifestation of culture along a continuum from explicit to implicit, a cultural critique of participatory practice in international development, the limits of social constructivist epistemologies and representations of voice, evaluation as a cultural practice, and cultural engagement and the multifaceted evaluator role.


Keywords


cultural context, culture, international development

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