Author Gordon Peake was highly impressed with two memoirs about women who went to work in Papua New Guinea. He wonders whether academic writing can capture as well the reality of how development really works.

Peake is no mean author himself - his Beloved Land: Stories, Struggles and Secrets from Timor-Leste won the 2014 ACT Book of the Year and People’s Choice Award (and was reviewed earlier on this site). But reading the PNG memoirs set him thinking about whether academic writing is a straitjacket when it comes to describing the everyday hurly burly of ‘development’.

Rascal Rain book coverIn a recent Devpolicy blog, Peake says he can’t recommend the memoirs highly enough. Trish Nicholson’s Inside the Crocodile and Inez Baranay’s Rascal Rain (also reviewed on this site) are “rich in human depth and capture well the tapestry of the unanticipated and unforeseen well familiar to anyone who has spent time working on a development project or program.”

Peake, a Visiting Fellow at Australian National University in Canberra, then goes on to ask how “deliberative, rational, structured” academic writing can engage with the worlds those books describe.

His conclusion? Well, suffice to say he felt encouraged to test the boundaries more the next time he embarks on an academic article;

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