Front-line work and interpretive labor in an Angolan development program

Rebecca Amanda Warne Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper ethnographically examines the in-country workforce of a decentralization program in postwar Angola. I compare the everyday activities of rank-and-file field staff to the policy prescriptions of the Good Governance in Angola Program (GGAP), carried out from 2007 to 2012. Focusing in particular on the work of the program’s Community Development Coordinators, the analysis reveals how field agents and administrative staff held highly discrepant ideas about implementation work that resulted in inadequate support and resources for community-level activities. Such divergent understandings of implementation work stem from pervasive power inequalities within the development industry that both produce and are supported by an inequitable division of interpretive labor; the relational work of understanding another’s perspective and responding accordingly. Development’s front-line agents are tasked with a double burden of interpretive labor and this aspect of their work, though crucial, goes unrecognized in the industry, simultaneously creating the conditions within which they can creatively respond to local contingencies and inadvertently concealing the true nature of their work and the extent of their resource needs from supervisors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCritical Policy Studies
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Africa
  • Angola
  • international development
  • nongovernmental organizations
  • Policy implementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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