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The Rabbi’s Well: A Case Study in the Micropolitics of Foreign Aid in Muslim West Africa

From: African Studies Review
Volume 51, Number 1, April 2008
pp. 41-57 | 10.1353/arw.0.0015



A conventional distinction in the foreign aid literature contrasts relief aid (qua emergency help and charitable giving) with developmental assistance (for sustainable economic growth, capacity building, and equitable distribution). In practice, however, the distinction blurs, and in the field it can lead to micropolitical conflict. This point is illustrated by the ecumenical efforts on the part of a U.S. rabbi to assist a school in southcentral Niger. As illustrated by the history of this project, complexities of local administration, and tensions between the staff and principal of one school, crystallized and demonstrated conflicts between traditional authorities and those of the modern state.

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