chapter  1
Participant observation to participatory development: making anthropology work PAU L SILLI TO E
Making anthropology work
ByPaul Sillitoe
Pages 23

There is a revolution occurring in the pursuit of ethnography (Sillitoe 1998). Few anthropologists are involved! It has to do with the shift in emphasis that is occurring in the development world from a ‘top-down’ intervention to a ‘grassroots’ participatory perspective. Development agencies have been casting around for several years with mounting evidence of resources wasted in illconceived, frequently centrally imposed schemes that have not only failed to improve matters in less developed countries but which have also on occasion made them worse, arrogantly sending in the eggheads to sort out local problems (Hobart 1993). The time has come for anthropology to consolidate its place in development practice, not merely as frustrated post-project critic but as implementing partner.There are growing demands for its skills and insights to further understanding of agricultural, health, community and other issues, and so contribute, as this volume argues, to positive change in the long term, promoting culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable interventions acceptable to ‘beneficiaries’. The conference from which this work derives – the millennial Association of Social Anthropologists of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Conference (at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, April 2000) – aimed to further the involvement of anthropologists in this challenging work.