This study investigates ‘partnership’ as a key discursive tool for extending neoliberalism in the field of international development. As a case study, it examines the language-in-use among development organizations when discussing public libraries as potential partners in Africa. Critical discourse analysis of 20 interviews with development practitioners via Fairclough’s three-part framework and keyword analysis illuminates how libraries are discursively constructed as partners. Findings reveal discourses centered around competition, visibility, and growth which uphold market logic and responsibilize potential partners, reproducing colonial power imbalances between Global North and South. As other institutions such as universities and NGOs grapple with similar dynamics, we must be attendant to the power asymmetries that are obscured by discourses of partnership in order to navigate the tension between increasing access to funding and advancing economic justice. We suggest measures for organizations to resist neoliberalism through self-conscious effort and investment toward more equitable partnerships.

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