Last weekend I attended, for the first time, the annual Conference of the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID) in Saskatoon. It was an interesting experience, in many ways. Compared to other development studies associations, like the Development Studies Association in the UK, CASID is quite small--around 150 members. Given the rapid expansion in development studies, at the undergraduate and graduate level, in Canada in the past 5 years, these low numbers are surprising. It was noticeable to me that some disciplines--economics, anthropology--were totally absent. Clearly, Canadian academics in development studies tend to maintain membership in their disciplinary-based professional associations, or in their area studies based professional associations, but not in their development studies association (unlike, for example, the UK). This gives CASID a lot of room for expansion, were it to choose to try to become a larger organization.
What was also noticeable was that by and large the 'names' in Canadian international development studies did not attend the Conference. Again, it would appear that CASID is not prioritized by those in the field that have international reputations. Again, this is an opportunity, were CASID to choose to pursue it.
The quality of the papers at the Conference were, as at any conference, variable. As usual, those panels were one expected a little tended to be quite good, while those panels where there were some expectations tended to be disappointing. Probably the most disconcerting panel at the Conference was the one on Afghanistan, which clearly demonstrated that the lack of understanding of Afghanistan that has already been discussed at length on this blog is found within the international development policy-making and academic community--a very disappointing finding, to be sure.
My own panels--I was on 3--went very well, being lively, with provocative questions and good discussion. I especially enjoyed the panel that I was on as part of the Insight Conference, the CASID-affiliated Canadian undergraduate international development studies conference. To my knowledge, this is the only regularly organized undergraduate conference in international development studies, so well done indeed to the organizers.
International development studies in Canada needs a strong voice. As yet, CASID is probably not it. However, the organization has ample room to become such a voice. I have been elected onto the Editorial Board of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies, so I will be, at least in some small way, involved in CASID, and my views on this can therefore be put to those in senior positions in CASID.
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