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Unformatted text preview: 1 Gross National Happiness: A New Paradigm? ‘Culture’: a new attribute to studying rural livelihoods Chandima D. Daskon, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Otago, New Zealand Abstract With the criticisms for top-town philosophy, development policies are now claimed to be culturally sensitive, people cantered, flexible, dynamic and multi-sectoral. Today, people’s values, customs, beliefs and traditional knowledge systems that collectively named as ‘culture’ is increasingly recognized as significant, and highly prioritized as vital sources, particularly for grassroots development. The Sustainable Livelihood Approach (SLA) was emerged in the 1990s as an alternative path to address grassroots problems, giving more opportunities to centralize people, their values and capabilities. The approach has declared as a holistic and comprehensive framework to address poverty and well-being, both in rural and urban contexts. But, it has also been criticised widely due to the lack of cultural and historical consideration, market and gender relation and asset measurements. This paper is built upon one of those critics. The paper inquires the role of traditional culture in building sustainable livelihoods in rural context. The inadequate attention of cultural aspect in livelihood context is a serious concern, as people’s values, customs, beliefs and traditional knowledge directly influence on the choice of livelihood strategies. According to the present livelihood analyses, culture is impediment for livelihood sustainability and refers to something that causes ‘livelihood vulnerability’. As far as people are centred both in development process and livelihood analysis, their values, customs, knowledge, traditions and beliefs, should also be at the centre. Meantime, culture should be a soft and permeable concept rather than deterministic and rigour . Introduction Our living world is rapidly transforming and globalization has become an inevitable process. We all have become members of the ‘global village’. We all are tended to share the global economy, global society, global political structure, global environment and global culture of course. Therefore, life has become absolutely ‘exciting’ for many people as this ‘global’ process is not equally benefiting for all at each and every corner of this world. Development is defined and redefined as a western process and also integrated with the western mythology 2 that distorts the imagination and vision of the majority of the people, through imposing ‘global values, norms and simply the ‘global culture’. To put it rather differently, all ‘other’ world views are devalued and dismissed as ‘primitive’, ‘backward’ and ‘irrational’ or ‘native’ (Tucker, 1999); traditional values, knowledge and customs have become irrelevant for human progress and therefore the development process has become value free phenomenon. The conceptual and theoretical heritage of western tradition has disallowed us phenomenon....
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