The relationship between language and neo-colonialism in the aid industry


  • Carla Vitantonio



language, neo-colonialism


Based both on research and on direct field experience, this article analyses the use of language as a tool of power within the aid industry. First, it underlines the deep relation between languages and cultures (or subcultures), then it presents historic examples on how language was purposefully used by colonisers to achieve dominance and, at times, to destroy pre-existing local practices. It then discusses more recent cases of language use by dominant groups, that stem from patriarchal and post-colonial relations. Finally, it analyses some of the practices related to language within the aid industry, showing how they mirror colonial and patriarchal beliefs, and suggests possible alternatives. 


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Author Biography

  • Carla Vitantonio

    Feminist, humanitarian professional and author Carla Vitantonio works as the Country Representative for an international NGO in Cuba. Over the last 10 years she has worked with governmental and non governmental organisations in North Korea, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Cuba. She has written two books on the impact of patriarchy and postcolonialism on aid.


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A child in a pink shirt wearing a face masks sits and writes on a chalk board. A woman next to them holds a card with a picture and writing on it.







How to Cite

“The relationship between language and neo-colonialism in the aid industry” (2022) The Humanitarian Leader, p. Working Paper 030, October 2022. doi:10.21153/thl2022art1661.

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