Nation branding and development: poverty panacea or business as usual?
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According to nation branding consultants, problems of underdevelopment and global inequality are, to a significant extent, a product of the negative images peddled by charities and the broader development industry. While such images secure donations, it is argued they deter more sustainable investments. In contrast, consultants argue that concerted nation-branding strategies offer much better solutions to problems of underdevelopment. This article subjects such claims to critical examination and argues that while the diagnosis of the problem may have some merit, the solution offered is more problematic. This is because nation-branding practices are inherently status quo oriented and reflective of a neoliberal understanding of the nature of (under)development. Moreover, nation branding also entails a troubling commodification of identity and culture as well as unsettling implications in respect of extant understandings of ‘good governance’. Finally, the article suggests that the dichotomy drawn between aid and nation branding cannot be upheld; rather, it is a device used to legitimise a market for the services of nation-branding consultants.
KeywordsAfrica development globalisation identity nation branding
I would like to thank the participants of the Democracy and Development research group in the Department of Comparative Politics, the University of Bergen, and of the IPE research cluster at the University of Warwick for comments while drafting this paper. For more specific comments, I am particularly indebted to my colleagues Gabrielle Lynch, Shirin Rai, Ben Richardson and Mat Watson.
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