Ilan Kapoor

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Ilan Kapoor (born 1959) is a Professor of Critical Development Studies at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada.[1] He is an influential postcolonial scholar, considered one of the first to bring postcolonial analysis to the field of Development Studies.[2] He is the author of two books and numerous articles on postcolonial politics, participatory development, and celebrity humanitarianism.[1]

Work on Participation[edit]

Kapoor first came to prominence in the early 2000s through a series of influential journal articles on participatory development (the practice of involving beneficiaries of international development programs in decision-making).[3] Kapoor is critical of such a practice, arguing that while it looks noble and promising (when adopted by the World Bank or any other international agency), it is often an excuse to further neoliberal policies, and can even result in authoritarian and exclusionary practices.[4] In 2004, Kapoor's critique helped frame an issue of Current Issues in Comparative Education (published at Columbia University).[5]

Work on Postcolonialism[edit]

Kapoor's 2008 book, The Postcolonial Politics of Development, is a collection of essays written between 2002-2007.[6] The book is one of the first to analyze development issues from a postcolonial perspective. It has received many positive reviews.[6] Kapoor examines recent international development policy areas (governance, human/gender rights, participation), carrying out a cultural and political economy critique of them. He argues that development practitioners and western(ized) elites are often complicit in perpetuating contemporary forms of imperialism. The book concludes by arguing for the need for a radical self-reflexivity on the part of development workers, institutions and academics; while at the same time emphasizing the political strategies of marginalized groups that can lead to greater democratic dialogue.[6]

Ilan Kapoor is the brother of artist Anish Kapoor.[7] The latter designed the book cover for Kapoor's 2008 book, The Postcolonial Politics of Development.[8]

Work on Celebrity Humanitarianism[edit]

Kapoor's most recent book is Celebrity Humanitarianism: The Ideology of Global Charity (2012).[9] The book is one of the first to critically assess the relatively new phenomenon of global celebrity philanthropy (by the likes of Bono, Geldof, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Bill Gates, George Soros). The author carries out a stinging critique of celebrity charity work and corporate philanthropy. He shows how this charity is not just self-promoting, but also helps justify and worsen the global inequality brought about by capitalism. Kapoor also draws attention to what he sees as a new phenomenon of “spectacular NGOs,” not-for-profit development organizations such as Save Darfur or Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) that don’t just get celebrity endorsements but seek out celebrity status themselves. He takes them to task for being more interested in branding, spectacle and short-term results than addressing broader and long-term problems of social inequality and political inclusion.[9]


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