In a particularly influential paper in the critique of development literature in anthropology, Arturo Escobar once suggested that an underlying cause of the “crisis in developmentalist discourse” is our inability to imagine an alternative (1992, 21). The problem, he explains, is not a shortage of critics but, rather, a plethora who are content to operate within the “epistemological and cultural space” defined by the development discourse itself. Yet, he goes on in a subsequent work, “[t]he alternative is, in a sense, always there” (1995, 223), if not in the work of development professionals and critics, then in hybridizations constructed by local people to protect and to improve themselves (218–19). This paper is about such hybridized alternatives as they have developed over the past century among a group of pottery makers in rural Sri Lanka. These are not, however, the mass social movements to which Escobar was referring. Rather, they are everyday and, more important, ongoing refashionings of economic and social assistance programs as these local people select from, remake, and reject opportunities that come their way. While Escobar describes grassroots resistance to the very discourse of “Third World development,” the Sri Lankan potters neither resist consistently nor accept consistently the developers' views of the world and the development gifts on offer. Instead, the potters work toward their own goals and make choices accordingly, both influenced by and influencing the shifting external discourses in which they participate (Woost 2000, 769).

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