Department of Political Science


POLS0038 Discourses and Practices of International Development

Course Code: POLS0038

Course Tutor: Dr Cathy Elliott (Department of Political Science)

Length: One Term (Autumn Term)

Teaching: 20 contact hours plus a compulsory art gallery visit (usually on
Wednesday afternoon in Week 5 of term) TBC

Assessment: Essay One: 1000 word essay (30%) and Essay Two: One 3000 word essay (70%)

Credits: 15 credits/4 US Credits/7.5 ECTS Credits

Module Level: L6 (Advanced)

Preparatory Reading: In preparation for the class, please read Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver. It is quite cheap to buy or you can order it through your local public library. It would also be useful background reading to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. (These novels both cover some tough topics about poverty, climate change, race, gender and the history of slavery and colonialism in different ways. However, they should also both be interesting and enjoyable reads over the vacation.)

discourse; development; race; gender; LGBTQ+; disability

About this course

Imagine a “developing country”. What sorts of pictures appear in your head? What are the words that you might use to describe it? How do you imagine the people? What are their lives like? What sorts of roles do the men and women have? What is life like if you are LGBTQ+ in this country? How about if you are religious? Or how about if you have a disability? Now think of a “developed country” and ask yourself the same questions. On the basis of these pictures in your head, what do you think the relationship between developed and developing countries and their people should be?

Now ask yourself: do you think most people have the same sorts of pictures in their heads when they imagine developing and developed countries? Where do you think these pictures come from? What is their history? Whose interests do they serve? If we could change those pictures, what difference would it make to the world? Would it be better or worse? How do these pictures, these ideas, these patterned ways of thinking about development come about and change? In short, what are our discourses about development, what do they do, and why does it matter?

This course will examine how discourses about development divide the world into rich and poor. We will critically examine the idea that the world can be understood as composed of the rich, industrialised “developed” countries (or global “North”) and the poorer “majority world” (or global “South”), and investigate the history, gendering and racialisation of this idea. The focus throughout will be on how development is represented, by whom and with what consequences.

Students will be introduced to the different discourses of development, including considering how ideas about time, democracy, expertise, bodies and spirituality inform ways of thinking about development. We will also focus on the way these different discursive approaches have shaped development processes, institutions, and policies. This will also enable us to investigate how, and in what ways, we are all personally implicated in the flows of power, goods, money and ideas that create a rich and a poor world. We will engage carefully with the emotions that learning about your own role in development might bring up and work through them together as part of the course.

By the end of the course, you will be able to identify how different discursive approaches imply different types of development intervention and you will be able to conduct a systematic discourse analysis of a specific development project or policy and indicate some ways in which it might be contested.

Please note that POLS0038 is an advanced Political Science module. It would be advantageous if you already have either some knowledge of the theories and practices of development or of poststructural theory and ideas about discourse. If not, you might like to read one or more of the following texts:

Kate Willis Theories and Practices of Development (London: Routledge, 2011)

Peter Burnell, Lise Rakner and Vicky Randall Politics in the Developing World (5th Edition) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)

Pietra Rivoli The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power and Politics of World Trade (Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2015)

Arturo Escobar Encountering Development (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997)

Roxanne Doty Imperial Encounters: The Politics of Representation in North-South Relations (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1996)

Ilan Kapoor The Postcolonial Politics of Development (London, Routledge: 2008)

Andrea Cornwall et al Development with a body: sexuality, human rights and development (London, Zed Books: 2008)

Aram Ziai Exploring Post-development: Theory and practice, problems and perspectives (London : Routledge, 2007)