Gender and Technologies of Knowledge in Development Discourse: Analysing United Nations Least Developed Country Policy 1971-2004

Author: Sarah Goulding

Goulding, Sarah, 2006 Gender and Technologies of Knowledge in Development Discourse: Analysing United Nations Least Developed Country Policy 1971-2004, Flinders University, School of Chemistry, Physics & Earth Sciences

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


The United Nations category Least Developed country (LDC) was created in 1971 to ameliorate conditions in countries the UN identified as the poorest of the poor. Its administration and operation within UN development discourse has not been explored previously in academic analysis. This thesis explores this rich archive of development discourse. It seeks to situate the LDC category as a vehicle that both produces and is a product of development discourse, and uses gender analysis as a critical tool to identify the ways in which the LDC category discourse operates. The thesis draws on Foucauldian theory to develop and use the concept ‘technologies of knowledge’, which places the dynamics of LDC discourse into relief. Three technologies of knowledge are identified: LDC policy, classification through criteria, and data. The ways each of these technologies of knowledge operates are explored through detailed readings of over thirty years of UN policy documents that form the thesis’s primary source material. A central question within this thesis is: If the majority of the world’s poor are women, where are the women in the policy about the countries that are the poorest of the poor? In focusing the analysis on the representation of women in LDCs, I place women at the centre of the analytic stage, as opposed to the marginal position I have found they occupy within LDC discourse. Through this analysis of the reductionist representations of LDC women, I explore the gendered dynamics of development discourse. Exploring the operation of these three technologies of knowledge reveals some of the discursive boundaries of UN LDC category discourse, particularly through its inability to incorporate gender analysis. The discussion of these three technologies of knowledge – policy, classification through criteria, and data – is framed by discussions of development and gender. The discussion on development positions this analysis within post-development critiques of development policy, practice and theory. The discussion on gender positions this analysis within the trajectory of postmodern and postcolonial influenced feminist engagements with development as a theory and praxis, particularly with debates about the representation of women in the third world. This case study of the operation of development discourse usefully highlights gendered dynamics of discursive ways of knowing.

Keywords: Development discourse,United Nations,Postcolonial,Postmodern,Foucault,Least Developed Country Policy,Women,Feminism,Poverty,Gender Analysis,LDC

Subject: Development Studies thesis, International Studies thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2006
School: School of Chemical and Physical Sciences
Supervisor: Jane Haggis