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« Empowerment » : généalogie d'un concept clé du discours contemporain sur le développement


  • Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès


Today the term empowerment has become a central piece of international devel- opment agencies’ fashionable discourse on « participation of the poor in develop- ment». The paper retraces the history of the word in the field of international development. First, its origins and sources of influence, then its emergence in Third World feminists and radical activists’ theories in the 80s, and finally its gradual institutionalisation in mainstream development discourse. The papers shows how the cooptation of the word by international development agencies has transformed a notion originally conceived as a bottom-up process of consciousness-raising and political mobilization for challenging unequal power structures, to an ill-defined and vaguely consensual buzzword, that narrowly assimilates power to individual and economic choices, depoliticizes collective power, and is manipulated to legitimate existing top-down policies and programmes.

Suggested Citation

  • Anne-Emmanuèle Calvès, 2009. "« Empowerment » : généalogie d'un concept clé du discours contemporain sur le développement," Revue Tiers-Monde, Armand Colin, vol. 0(4), pages 735-749.
  • Handle: RePEc:cai:rtmarc:rtm_200_0735

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