Chelsea M. Vanhook



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This project focuses specifically on the neo-liberal economic iteration of international development. Neo-liberalism is the idea that the deregulation of the private sector, reductions in government expenditures, and expansion of free trade will lead to growth in undeveloped countries, which will effectively end poverty and increase the standard of living. Development is, thus, justified on the basis of its purported virtues: that economic liberalization has resulted in the prosperity of Western countries and that the same models can be replicated elsewhere to produce the same results. My ethnography in Southwest Cameroon, however, shows that the experience and embodiment of development takes on a new understanding at the local, daily level. Progress and growth is connected to what can be reaped from the ground, obstacles understood as material difficulties that disable work from being done efficiently. Exploring the paradox of cocoa and chocolate in Cameroon, I find that while the average Cameroonian is able to grow cocoa, he/she is unable to afford chocolate. Moreover, assistance from government agricultural technicians provides the necessary aid to farmers and Common Initiative Groups (CIGs) to mitigate the difficulties and technicalities associated with agricultural work. Therefore, not only does neo-liberal economic development not provide the proper prescription for overcoming the difficulties individuals face, but it can hinder the work already being done by local professionals working within their communities. This context calls for a critiquing of the assumptions which undergird the development paradigm in order to understand how and why it so often fails, as well to reconcile development with the local understandings and needs in the Global South, generally, and Southwest Cameroon, specifically.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Honors Thesis

Primary Advisor

Simanti Dasgupta

Primary Advisor's Department

Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work


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Arts and Humanities | Business | Education | Engineering | Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Cocoa and Chocolate: Deconstructing the Development Paradigm in Cameroon