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The village as Cold War site: experts, development, and the history of rural reconstruction*

  • Nicole Sackley (a1)

This article examines ‘the village’ as a category of development knowledge used by policymakers and experts to remake the ‘Third World’ during the Cold War. The idea of the village as a universal category of underdevelopment, capable of being remade by expert-led social reform, structured efforts to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of people from Asia to Latin America and Africa. Rooted in a transnational interwar movement for rural reconstruction, village projects were transformed in the 1950s and 1960s by a scientization of development that narrowed the range of experts in the field and by Cold War politics that increasingly tied development to anti-communism and counterinsurgency. From India to Central America, strategic efforts to control rural populations won out over concerns for rural welfare.

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1 ‘Major describes move’, New York Times, 8 February 1968, p. 14.

2 Nandy, Ashis, An ambiguous journey to the city: the village and other odd ruins of the self in the Indian imagination, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 19.

3 Rostow, W. W., Stages of economic growth: a non-communist manifesto, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1960.

4 Mitchell, Timothy, Rule of experts: Egypt, techno-politics, modernity, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002, p. 123–52; Nick Cullather, ‘“The target is the people”’: representations of the village in modernization and U.S. National Security Doctrine’, Cultural Politics 2, 1, 2006, pp. 29–48. On development categories, see Matthew Connelly, ‘To inherit the earth: imagining world population, from the yellow peril to the population bomb’, Journal of Global History 1, 2006, pp. 299–319; Timothy Mitchell, ‘Economists and the economy in the twentieth century’, in Steinmetz, George, ed. The politics of method in the human sciences: positivism and its epistemological others, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005, pp. 126–41; Cullather, Nick, Hungry world: America’s Cold War battle against poverty in Asia, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010, pp. 11–34; Daniel Speich, ‘The use of global abstractions: national income accounting in the period of imperial decline’, Journal of Global History, 6, 1, 2011, pp. 7–28. For histories emphasizing US actors in village reform, see Ekbladh, David, The great American mission: modernization and the construction of an American world order, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010; Jason Pribilsky, ‘Development and the “Indian Problem” in the Cold War Andes: indigenismo, science, and modernization in the making of the Cornell–Peru project at Vicos’, Diplomatic History, 33, 3, 2009, pp. 405–26. On colonial projects, see Hodge, Joseph Morgan, Triumph of the expert: agrarian doctrines of development and the legacies of British colonialism, Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007; Lewis, Joanna, Empire state-building: war and welfare in Kenya, 1925–52, Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2000; Tilley, Helen, Africa as a living laboratory: empire, development, and the problem of scientific knowledge, 1870–1950, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011. On nationalist visions of the village, see El Shakry, Omnia, The great social laboratory: subjects of knowledge in colonial and postcolonial Egypt, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007; Subir Sinha, ‘Lineages of the developmentalist state: transnationality and village India, 1900–1965’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 50, 1, 2008, pp. 57–90; Scott, James C., Seeing like a state: how certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998, pp. 193–306.

5 Rafffles, Thomas Stamford, The history of Java, vol. 1, London: John Murray, 1817; Clive Dewey, ‘Images of the village community: a study in Anglo-Indian ideology’, Modern Asian Studies, 6, 3, 1972, pp. 291–32.

6 Maine, Henry Sumner, Village-communities in the east and west, London: John Murray, 1871.

7 Carpenter, Frank G., Europe, New York: American Book Company, 1902, pp. 329, 326; Engerman, David, Modernization from the other shore: American intellectuals and the romance of Russian development, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004, pp. 190–1; Ross, Edward A., Changing Chinese: the conflict of Oriental and Western cultures in China, New York: Century, 1911, p. 3.

8 Painter, Nell Irvin, The history of white people, New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, p. 232.

9 Metcalfe, Thomas R., Ideologies of the Raj, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995; David Ludden, ‘World economy and village India, 1600–1900’, in Bose, Sugata, ed. South Asia and world capitalism, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990, pp. 159–77.

10 Smith, Arthur H., Village life in China: a study in sociology, New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1899, p. 15.

11 Edward Warren Capen, ‘Modern principles of foreign missions’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 30, 1907, pp. 33–44; Gary R. Hess, ‘American economic missionaries and efforts at economic improvement in India’, Agricultural History, 42, 1, 1968, pp. 23–34.

12 Edward Warren Capen, ‘Sociological appraisal of Western influence in the orient’, American Journal of Sociology, 16, 6, 1911, p. 754.

13 Hodge, Triumph, pp. 118–19.

14 Kramer, Paul A., The blood of government: race, empire, the United States, & the Philippines, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

15 Quoted in Hodge, Triumph, p. 140. See also Ann Laura Stoler, ‘Tense and tender ties: the politics of comparison in North American history and (post) colonial studies’, Journal of American History, 88, 3, 2001, pp. 829–65; Adas, Michael, Dominance by design, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009, pp. 129–84; Paul A. Kramer, ‘Empires, exceptions, and Anglo-Saxons: race and rule between the British and United States empires, 1880–1910’, Journal of American History, 88, 4, 2002, pp. 1315–53; Moon, Suzanne, Technology and ethical idealism: a history of development in the Netherlands East Indies, Leiden: CNWS Publications, 2007.

16 Jones, Thomas Jesse, The essentials of civilization: a story of social values, New York: Henry Holt, 1929; Eric S. Yellin, ‘The (white) search for (black) order: the Phelps–Stokes Fund’s first twenty years, 1911–1931’, The Historian, 65, 2002, pp. 319–52.

17 Lugard, Frank D., The British mandate in British tropical Africa, London: William Blackwood, 1922, p. 202.

18 Brayne, Frank Lugard, The remaking of village India, London: Oxford University Press, 1929; idem, Better villages, London: Oxford University Press, 1937.

19 Report of a Royal Commission on Agriculture in India, London: H.M. Stationery Office, 1928.

20 Allen, Harold B., Come over into Macedonia: the story of a ten-year adventure in uplifting a war-torn people, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1943.

21 Yat-sen, Sun, The international development of China, New York: Putnam, 1922; Han, Xiarong, Chinese discourses on the peasant, 1900–1949, Albany, NY: State University Press of New York, 2005; Prakash, Gyan, Another reason: science and the imagination of modern India, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

22 Gi-Wook Shin, ‘Agrarianism: a critique of colonial modernity in Korea’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 41, 4, 1999, pp. 784–804; Mallon, Florence, Peasant and nation: the making of postcolonial Mexico and Peru, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995; M. Asim Karoumerlioglu, ‘The Village Institutes experience in Turkey’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 25, 1, 1998, pp. 47–73; El Shakry, Great social laboratory; Vlastos, Stephen, ed. Mirror of modernity: invented traditions of modern Japan, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998, pp. 79–94.

23 Leonard S. Hsü, ‘Rural reconstruction in China’, Pacific Affairs, 10, 3, 1937, pp. 249–65; Gramsci, Antonio, Prison notebooks, New York: Columbia University Press, 1992; R. Walter Darré, ‘The German peasant formed German history’, in Mosse, George L., ed. Nazi culture: intellectual, social, and cultural life in the Third Reich, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003, pp. 147–51; Raper, Arthur F., Preface to peasantry: a tale of two black belt counties, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1936; Southerners, Twelve, I’ll take my stand: the South and the agrarian tradition, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930.

24 Engerman, Modernization, pp. 164, 168, 209–10.

25 Frederick Cooper, ‘Modernizing bureaucrats, backward Africans, and the development concept’, in Cooper, Frederick and Packard, Randall, eds. International development and the social Sciences, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997, pp. 64–92; Hodge, Triumph, pp. 170–88.

26 Pande, V. P., Village community projects in India, New York: Asia Publishing House, 1967, pp. 103–12; Frazier, E. Franklin and Williams, Eric, eds. The economic future of the Caribbean, Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1944; Hayford, Charles W., To the people: James Yen and village China, New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

27 On rural reconstruction in the United States, see Rodgers, Daniel T., Atlantic crossings: social politics in a progressive age, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998, pp. 447–61.

28 By the end of the 1950s, evocations of the ‘village’ would also migrate to US urban policymaking and urban ‘renewal’ projects.

29 See, for example, Irwin T. Sanders, ‘Characteristics of peasant societies’, in de S. Brunner, Edmund, et al. Farmers of the world, New York: Columbia University Press, 1945, pp. 4–7.

30 Lewis, Empire state-building, pp. 301–16.

31 Truman, Harry S., Public papers of the president: Harry S. Truman, 1950, Washington, DC: GPO, 1965, p. 228.

32 Cedric H. Seager, ‘Point four’s impact on the Middle East’, Department of State Bulletin, 27, 691, 1952, p. 451.

33 Douglass, William O., Strange lands and friendly people, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951, p. 317; Herbert L. Matthews, ‘Volcanic forces rumble in India’, New York Times, 8 February 1948, p. SM8; ‘Aid of U.S. held vital to Middle East’, Washington Post, 5 March 1955, p. 11.

34 Lewis, Wyndham, America and cosmic man, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1949, p. 21.

35 Willard L. Thorp, ‘World farming population aroused by knowledge of greener pastures’, Department of State Bulletin, 25, 643, 1951, pp. 661–2; Isador Lubin, ‘The world’s awakening people’, Department of State Bulletin, 26, 677, 1952, p. 935.

36 Frank Ninkovich, ‘The Rockefeller foundation, China, and cultural change’, Journal of American History, 70, 4, 1984, pp. 799–820; Ekbladh, Great American mission, pp. 25–39; Melvin Conant, Jr, ‘JCRR: an object lesson’, Far Eastern Survey, 20, 9, 1951, pp. 88–92.

37 Truman, Public papers 1950, p. 262; Goodfriend, Arthur, The only war we seek, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Young, 1951, p. 119.

38 India, Planning Commission, The first five-year plan, New Delhi: Government of India, 1952; Nehru, Jawaharlal, On community development, New Delhi: Government of India, 1958.

39 Pande, Village community projects, p.173.

40 Sinha, ‘Lineages’, p. 75.

41 Chester B. Bowles, ‘The partnership that must not fail’, Department of State Bulletin, 26, 658, 1952, p. 164; Schaffer, Howard B., Chester Bowles: New Dealer in the Cold War, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

42 Truman, Harry S., Public papers of the presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1949, Washington, DC: GPO, 1964, p. 114.

43 Dean Acheson, ‘Conference on world land tenure problems’, Department of State Bulletin, 25, 643, 1951, p. 660.

44 House Committee on Foreign Relations, Foreign assistance act of 1962, 87th Congress, 2nd Session, H. Rep. 1788, Washington, DC: GPO, 1962.

45 See, for example, Paul Neurath, ‘Social research in newly independent countries: an Indian example’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 24, 4, 1960, pp. 670–4; William F. Ogburn, ‘A design for some experiments in the limitation of population growth in India’, Economic Development and Cultural Change, 1, 5, 1953, pp. 376–89.

46 Kuklick, Henrietta, The savage within: the social history of British anthropology, 1885–1945, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 182–241; Stocking, George Jr, The ethnographer’s magic and other essays in the history of anthropology, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992, pp. 114–77; Price, David H., Anthropological intelligence: the deployment and neglect of American anthropology in the Second World War, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

47 Columbia University, New York, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Carnegie Corporation Records (henceforth CCR), Box 124, ‘Cornell University: grant of $180,000 for program in anthropology’, October 1947; CCR, Box 124, Lauriston Sharp, ‘Studies in culture and applied science: progress report to the Carnegie corporation of New York’, October 1950; CCR, Box, 124, Sharp to John Gardner, 19 April 1951.

48 CCR, Box 124, Lauriston Sharp, ‘Cultural anthropology program: progress report to the Carnegie corporation of New York’, 30 September 1949; idem, ‘Peasants and politics in Thailand’, Far Eastern Survey, 19, 15, 1950, p. 157.

49 CCR, Box 124, Morris Opler, ‘A proposal for a program of experimental field research in technological change’, April 1951; Ford Foundation Archives, New York (henceforth FFA), Reel 0405, Grant 53–63, Section 3, Opler to Carl B. Spaeth, 22 April 1952.

50 FFA, Reel 0405, Grant 53–63, Section 3, Morris E. Opler, ‘The Cornell action-research project in India’, 31 January 1952; idem, ‘Problems concerning official and popular participation in development projects’, Economic Development and Cultural Change, 2, 4, 1954, p. 158.

51 FFA, Reel 0405, Grant 53–63, ‘“Leakage” of US expert’s questionnaire, Indian research officer forced to resign’, National Herald, Lucknow, 28 March 1955; FFA, Reel 0405, Grant 53–63, Section 4, Edward E. LeClair, Jr, ‘Memorandum [to Clarence E. Thurber]: Rankhandi research project’, 10 April 1958; Yale University Library, New Haven, CT, Manuscripts and Archives, Douglas Ensminger Papers, Box 14, Folder B21, Douglas Ensminger, ‘The Ford Foundation’s nineteen years of involvement with India’s community development program’, 11 July 1972; Dube, S. C., Changing villages: human factors in community development, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1958.

52 Foundation, Ford, Report on India’s food crisis and steps to meet it, New Delhi: Government of India, 1959.

53 Kingsley Davis, ‘Social and demographic aspects of economic development’, in Kuznets, Simon, et al. Economic growth: Brazil, India, Japan, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1955, p. 286; ‘India: The India-Harvard-Ludhiana population study’, Studies in Family Planning, 1, 1, 1962, pp. 5–6; Donald Bogue, ‘Hypotheses for family planning derived from recent and current experiences in Asia’, Studies in Family Planning, 1, 3, 964, p. 7; Dennis Hodgson, ‘Demography as social science and policy science’, Population and Development Review, 9, 1983, pp. 22–3, 30.

54 Saradindu Snyal, ‘Sripati Chandradesekhar: the man and his mission’, in Bose, Ashih, et al. Studies in demography, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1970, pp. 507–24; Connelly, Matthew, Fatal misconception: the struggle to control world population, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008, pp. 169–226. On the lessons from DDT, see Nancy Elizabeth Gallagher, Egypt’s other wars: epidemics and the politics of public health, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, pp. 102–3.

55 Harry S. Truman, Public papers of the presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1947, Washington, DC: GPO, 1963: p. 178; idem, Public papers of the presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1948, Washington, DC: GPO, 1963, p. 140; ‘Reds reported terrorizing Indian villages’, Washington Post, 5 August 1952, p. 3.

56 Pye, Lucian W., Guerilla communism in Malaya, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1956.

57 Scaff, Alvin H., The Philippine answer to communism, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1955.

58 Stubbs, Richard, Hearts and minds in guerilla warfare: the Malayan emergency, 1948–1960, New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

59 Land reclamation schemes and the building of vast hydroelectric dams also provoked the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of people. See Chambers, Robert, Settlement schemes in tropical Africa: a study of organizations and development, London: Frederick A. Praeger, 1969, pp. 18–41; Christophe Bonneuil, ‘Development as experiment: science and state building in late colonial and postcolonial Africa, 1930–1970’, Osiris, 15, 2000, pp. 261–5; Jewsiewicki, Bogumil, Modernisation ou destruction du village africain: l’économie politique de la ‘modernisation agricole’ au Conge Belge, Brussels: Centre d’Étude et de Documentation Africaines, 1983; Martin Thomas, ‘Bedouin tribes and the imperial intelligence services in Syria, Iraq and Transjordan in the 1920s’, Journal of Contemporary History, 38, 4, 2003, pp. 539–61.

60 Viola, Lynne, The unknown gulag: the lost world of Stalin’s special settlements, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007; Orin Starn, ‘Engineering internment: anthropologists and the War Relocation Authority’, American Ethnologist, 13, 4, 1986, pp. 700–20.

61 John Kerry King, ‘Malaya’s settlement problem’, Far Eastern Survey, 23, 3, 1954, p. 33.

62 Branch, Daniel, Defeating Mau Mau, creating Kenya: counterinsurgency, civil war, and decolonization, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 107–16.

63 U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Report of the special study mission to Pakistan, India, Thailand, and Indochina, Washington: GPO, 1953, p. 54; ‘Indo-China: protected village’, Time, 2 March 1953; Ronald Stead, ‘Indo-China: Asia’s other war’, Christian Science Monitor, 15 June 1953, p. 9; James P. Hendrick to C. Tyler Wood, 10 June 1953, in Foreign relations of the United States, 1952–1954, Indochina, Part I, Washington, DC: US GPO, 1982, pp. 394, 605.

64 Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, CA, John D. Montgomery Papers, box 13, folder 10, Bien Lien Nguyen, ‘Community development in Vietnam, secretariat general of the national committee for community development, Republic of Vietnam’, 1958; Walter S. Robertson, ‘Progress in free Viet-nam’, Department of State Bulletin, 34, 885, 1956, p. 973; Catton, Philip E., Diem’s final failure: prelude to America’s war in Vietnam, Lawrence, KN: University Press of Kansas, 2002, pp. 56–8, 64–9, 93–6, 117, 125; Latham, Michael, Modernization as ideology: American social science and ‘nation building’ in the Kennedy Era, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000, pp. 151–208.

65 Roger Hilsman, ‘A strategic concept for South Vietnam’, 2 February 1962, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961–96, Volume II: Vietnam, 1962, Washington, DC: GPO, 1990, p. 75.

66 Ibid., p. 86; Catton, Diem’s final failure, p. 140; Young, Marilyn B., The Vietnam wars, 1945–1990, New York: HarperPerennial, 1991, p. 82; William Lybrand, ‘Forward’, in Symposium Proceedings: The U.S. Army’s Limited-War Mission and Social Science Research, March 26–28, 1962, Washington, DC: Special Operations Research Office, American University, 1962, p. x.

67 Roger Hilsman, ‘A report on South Viet-Nam’, Department of State Bulletin, 47, 1215, 1962, p. 528; Latham, Modernization, p. 138; Hilsman, ‘Strategic concept’, p. 78.

68 Roger Hilsman, To move a nation: the politics of foreign policy in the administration of John F. Kennedy. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967, pp. 424–39.

69 Robert W. Komer, ‘The other war in Vietnam: a progress report, Part I’, Department of State Bulletin, 55, 1424, 1966, pp. 559–63; Johnson, Lyndon B., Public papers of the presidents: Lyndon B. Johnson: 1965, Washington, DC: GPO, 1966, p. 397.

70 On US social scientists and counterinsurgency in Vietnam, see Robin, Ron, The making of the Cold War enemy: culture and politics in the military industrial complex, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001, pp. 185–205; Jefferson P. Marquis, ‘The other warriors: US social science and nation building in Vietnam’, Diplomatic History, 24, 1, 2000, pp. 79–105.

71 Edward J. Mitchell, ‘Inequality and insurgency: a statistical study of South Vietnam’, World Politics, 20, 3, 1968, pp. 432, 423.

72 Leites, Nathan and Wolf, Charles Jr, Rebellion and authority: myths and realities reconsidered, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1966.

73 McCuen, John J., The art of counter-revolutionary revolutionary war, Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1966, pp. 22–3; Heggoy, Alf Andrew, Insurgency and counterinsurgency in Algeria, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1972, pp. 214, 223; Connelly, Matthew, A diplomatic revolution: Algeria’s fight for independence and the origins of the post-Cold War era, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 95; Roy, Jules, The war in Algeria, New York: Grove Press, 1961, p. 50.

74 One could also see the shift to increasingly coercive policies in Tanzania. In 1973, President Julius Nyerere transformed his campaign to persuade Tanzanians to inhabit ujamaa villages, imagined as socialist cooperatives, into a national decree for compulsory villagization: Scott, Seeing like a state, pp. 223–61. See also Stanley Meisler, ‘Mozambique villages fortified by Portuguese’, Los Angeles Times, 2 April 1968, p. A1; Gerald J. Bender, ‘The limits of counterinsurgency: an African case’, Comparative Politics, 4, 3, 1972, pp. 331–60; Ernest Weatherall, ‘India reinstates strategic hamlets’, Christian Science Monitor, 28 January 1970, p. 4; Banarjee, Utpal K., Operational analysis and Indian defence, New Delhi: Concept Publishing, 1980.

75 Grandin, Greg, Empire’s workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the rise of the new imperialism, New York: Henry Holt, 2006, pp. 90–101; Stephen M. Streeter, ‘Nation-building in the land of eternal counter-insurgency: Guatemala and the contradictions of the Alliance for Progress’, Third World Quarterly, 27, 1, 2006, pp. 57–68.

76 Chris Hedges, ‘Is Salvador using humanitarian aid in its war against leftists?’, Christian Science Monitor, 11 January 1984, p. 9; William D. Montalbano, ‘Aid: life at Salvadoran grassroots’, Los Angeles Times, 29 September 1983, p. B1.

77 James LeMoyne, ‘Guatemala crushes rebels its own way: ruthlessly’, New York Times, 13 January 1985, p. E3; Peter Ford, ‘Rural Guatemala: under army’s forceful thumb’, Christian Science Monitor, 26 June 1986, p. 9; Manz, Beatriz, Refugees of a hidden war: the aftermath of counterinsurgency in Guatemala, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988, pp. 96–114; Jonas, Susanne, The battle for Guatemala: rebels, death squads, and U.S. power, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991, pp. 149–51.

78 Loren Jenkins, ‘Guatemala building strategic hamlets’, Washington Post, 21 December 1984, p. A28.

* I am grateful to William Gervase Clarence-Smith, Hugh West, Eric Yellin, and two anonymous reviewers for their careful readings and helpful suggestions.

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