Freeing the Frog in the Well: Borrowing from History to Understand Contemporary Japanese Development Aid to Ethiopia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Although the study of international development is by necessity an interdisciplinary field, efforts to agree on mutually intelligible research methods and propose concrete policies have resulted in its general positioning in the social sciences. History and other humanities disciplines have often been sidelined. This chapter recounts an experience in which historical concepts and epistemologies nonetheless proved pivotal to my work as a development scholar. The concept of “low modernism, " developed by historians, has allowed me to understand how Japan’s aid agency is attempting to transfer Japanese management techniques to Ethiopian factory floors. It has helped me to situate this project within longstanding debates around industrialization in the Global South, thereby highlighting what is truly novel about Japanese-Ethiopian development cooperation-and what is not. Closer and renewed encounters between history and development studies may help the latter to overcome criticisms that its prescriptions and critiques too often occur in a presentist vacuum.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterdisciplinarity in the Scholarly Life Cycle
Subtitle of host publicationLearning by Example in Humanities and Social Science Research
EditorsKaren Bijsterveld, Aagje Swinnen
PublisherPalgrave McMillan
ISBN (Electronic)9783031111082
ISBN (Print)9783031111075
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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