To me this post hits the nail on the head! I see this ‘haan ji’ syndrome as the greatest potential issue with participatory/communicative planning and research in disadvantaged communities, particularly in the ‘developing’ post-colonial world. Power relations cannot just be wished away, there is need for innovative new strategies that address this issue.
The author of this article, Hugo Ribadeau Dumas, is a master student in urban governance (from Sciences Po, Paris). He is currently interning with PRIA in Patna, Bihar.
Photo: Slum dwellers during an “orientation meeting” organized by PRIA in Chhapra (Bihar), in February 2013
“Han ji”(Yes sir). These two words could sum up very well the spirit of slum dwellers when interrogated about participatory processes they are involved in. Did you find today’s discussion fruitful? “Han ji”. Did you understand everything from yesterday’s training session? “Han ji”. Do you agree with the next steps we are suggesting you for the slum improvement committee? “Han ji”.
Whatever dry or disorganized meetings might be, the reaction of the inhabitants will almost invariably fit this “han ji framework”. Social workers familiar with the field will probably agree with this point: the tendency to acquiesce without questioning too often characterizes…
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