Novels better than experts for poverty insights: report

November 7th, 2008 - 12:30 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanLondon, Nov 7 (IANS) Bestsellers can give powerful insights into aspects of poverty that are overlooked by scholars, government advisers and pundits, according to a report.A team of poverty researchers from the University of Manchester and the London School of Economics (LSE) say novels should be taken as seriously as academic literature as an important source of knowledge on international development.

“Despite the regular flow of academic studies, expert reports and policy position papers, it is arguably novelists who do as good a job - if not a better one - of representing and communicating the realities of international development,” said Dennis Rodgers from Brooks World Poverty Institute (BWPI) at Manchester.

Bestsellers such as Indian writer Aravind Adiga’s Man Booker Prize-winning “The White Tiger” and Indian Canadian Rohinton Mistry’s “A Fine Balance”, he said, “convey complex ideas in a most powerful way”.

“We’re not arguing that poets should replace finance ministers,” said BWPI research director Michael Woolcock.

“But we are stressing that novelists make distinctive and important contributions to the broader storehouse of knowledge on the processes, experience and consequences of ‘development’,” he added.

Bestsellers examined by the team included “The White Tiger”, Booker-shortlist “A Fine Balance”, “The Kite Runner” by the Afghan-origin writer Khaled Hosseini, “Raag Darbari” by Hindi-language novelist Shrilal Shukla, and “Brick Lane” by Monica Ali, a British writer of Bangladeshi origin.

The researchers said “The Kite Runner” had done “more to educate Western readers about the realities of daily life in Afghanistan under the Taliban and thereafter than any government media campaign, advocacy organization report, or social science research”.

And “Raag Darbari” - one of Hindi literature’s seminal novels - had challenged romantic stereotypes of the Indian countryside “in a way that many academic and policy texts on rural India pointedly failed to do during the 1950s and 1960s”.

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