"The Devil’s in the Theory: a Critical Assessment of Robert Chambers' Work on Participatory Development"
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The practice orientation of Robert Chambers' work on Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), which aims at enabling local people and communities to take control over their own development, has received much attention in development circles. This article attempts to shift the emphasis away from PRA's practice towards its theoretical underpinnings. The article argues that PRA's practice/ empiricist orientation causes it to be insufficiently theorised and politicised. As a result, questions about inclusiveness, the role of PRA facilitators, and the personal behaviour of elites overshadow, or sometimes ignore, questions of legitimacy, justice, power and the politics of gender and difference. The article draws on arguments and debates involving Habermasian 'deliberative democracy' and post- structuralist notions of power.