Colonial Power in Development: Tracing German Interventions in Population and Reproductive Health in Tanzania

  • Daniel Bendix

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis examines the impact of the colonial past on contemporary Development. More specifically, it investigates how colonial power - conceived as discourses which emerged during colonisation and their interconnectedness with the material world - continues to shape present-day ideas and practices of Development actors from the global North that intervene in the lives of people in the global South. The colonial legacy of German Development cooperation is under-researched, and postcolonial Development Studies have yet to examine specific policies and their implementation in detail. This study focuses on German Development intervention with a focus on population and reproductive health issues in Tanzania, a former German colony.In order to investigate the influence of colonial modes of thought and practice on contemporary Development, this thesis develops and implements the methodology of genealogical dispositif analysis. Genealogy traces the historical emergence of policies and examines their present-day persistence, while dispositif analysis is an extension of discourse analysis enabling the research of discourses and their relationship with practices, institutions, and political-economic conditions. The study thus analyses the emergence of German interventions in what is now Tanzania with regard to population and reproductive health during Germany's colonisation of "German East Africa" and compares these interventions to present-day German Development cooperation in Tanzania, where reproductive health is one of the focal areas.Drawing on archives, interviews, and observations in Germany and Tanzania, this research finds similarities between contemporary German policy and practice regarding population control and colonial-era interventions. In particular, it shows how racialised, gendered discourses are connected to philanthropic legitimising strategies and the political economy of population control. In addition, policies and practices regarding obstetric care in contemporary German Development aid reflect hierarchies between Western and East African practices which are similar to those formed during colonial rule. Since the colonial period, East African obstetric care has been constructed as in need of catching up with German childbirth practices. In terms of how and with what effects colonial power is challenged in contemporary German Development cooperation, this research found that while narratives of German professionals reveal some doubt and uncertainty regarding dominant Development thinking and practice, they do not represent a fundamental threat to the persistence of colonial power. Colonial power tends to take effect in the face of and despite opposition. The thesis concludes that colonial power continues to significantly shape present-day Development policy and practice.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorUma Kothari (Supervisor) & Encarnacion Gutierrez-Rodriguez (Supervisor)


  • discourse analysis
  • reproductive health
  • power
  • maternal health
  • population control
  • Germany
  • postcolonialism
  • colonialism
  • development aid
  • Development Studies
  • Tanzania

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