Over the past two decades, the range of efforts to address global poverty and development has expanded dramatically. Yet, many of these approaches foreground market-based development and extend harmful neoliberal practices. Scholars have critiqued these practices for expanding capitalism to new realms, while others are more optimistic about the potential benefits of markets. In this study, I add a racial analysis to this conversation, arguing that colorblind racism plays a key role in justifying market-based development practices and obscuring enduring racial inequalities in development. I focus on a growing subfield of development—development engineering education—to demonstrate how colorblind racism informs students’ and practitioners’ approaches to development. Through interviews and observations of two development engineering programs and affiliated development organizations, I found that students and practitioners employed colorblind frameworks to legitimize market-based development, embracing the market as a seemingly race-neutral mechanism, in contrast to the overt racism that they connected to development aid. This research shows that to understand the popularity of neoliberal approaches to development, it is necessary to attend to how colorblind racism lends support to market-based practices. Further, this study illustrates the need to address multiple and mutating forms of racism in development.

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