Is 'development' an outdated construct, or an enduring imperative for human progress?

This course will provide a critical debate of the history, politics and the academic discourse of development politics and practice. We will discuss how questions of economic growth, poverty and inequality are framed in terms of development; how international relations are labelled and perceived in terms of development aid and cooperation. Development is no longer merely in the domain of the state, the neoliberal shift has led to the rise of national and international agencies which engage in ‘development’, both in the “Third World”, as well as in the west and postsocialist countries. We will follow through how doctrines of Development and Progress are subject to and respond to criticism, adapt to the failure of their own development programs, and how the gap between rich and poor continues to grow despite –or because of- development policies.  At the same time, the geographic distinction between the ‘developed’ and the ‘developing’ has become increasingly obsolete. Urban centres form hybrid spaces where ‘core’ and ‘periphery’ are intricately intertwined, where ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’ coexist.


Course Content

As outlined, this course will discuss the major theories and approaches in the anthro­polo­gical study of development, and will take a specific look at rural-urban relations in the devel­op­ing world. The intention is to critically review the history of development theory, with a special attention to the political context and content of each model, alongside anthro­pological models of culture change.  The course will continue by looking at the relation between anthro­po­logy and the development machine, and trace the paradigm shifts in develop­ment models. The debate will focus on the question if is to draw a line between development cooperation and inter­vention. A special focus will lie on south-south alliances, which claim to provide development “from within”. Attention will be paid to the digitization of development, ‘financial inclusion’ and the proliferation of surveillance capitalism. A final part ties the threads together and looks at issues of urba­nization, investigate the impact of cities on rural livelihoods, look at informal econo­mies, and eventually scrutinize the role of cities as the engines in a global develop­ment machine.