SPOKE: First, speak no harm: Improving education aid effectiveness by rethinking policy language
How does the language/terminology used by global education aid policymakers shape the ways in which subalterns targeted by their policies are viewed, and consequently impact how those policies are implemented ‘on the ground’ and how future policies are made?
Bengtsson’s spoke is particularly interested in the “aid-ophone” community, whose members have formed inter-agency groups around and as a result of international agreements and goals, and who thus share a certain vocabulary and discourse related to humanitarian assistance and development (Bengtsson, 2011). It builds on the premise that language has “constitutive power”, and that, as such, the humanitarian imperative to ‘first, do no harm’ is impossible for aid professionals to follow unless they first speak no harm (Mehan, 1997, p.250). Inherent to this project is the recognition “that knowledge is socially constructed and shaped by relations of power” and thus looks at a community that has more control over the “knowledge” around aid than those who are actually meant to benefit from the aid interventions (Vavrus & Seghers, 2010, p.77). Exploring what is traditionally seen as a homogeneous elite level in this way has been termed “studying up” by Nader (2002, p.284). This project will contribute to the scholarship on critical discourse analysis within comparative education, and is motivated by the hitherto untapped potential for linguistic change to bring about meaningful shifts in aid practice.