SDC-32306 Anthropology and Development


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work3
Excursion (one day)7
Independent study
Course coordinator(s)dr. AMG Arce
Lecturer(s)dr. AMG Arce
dr. R Fletcher
Examiner(s)dr. AMG Arce

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Bsc Rural Development, Sociology, Anthropology or any other international student with BSc or Appplied Social Science background, BSc-C Rural Development Sociology, applied Social Sciences or equivalent courses.

Continuation courses:

Major Thesis, MID.


This course starts by critically examining the contribution of social and political anthropology to social change (i.e. the Manchester school). This methodological and theoretical background enables us to focus on, and reflexively make sense of the importance of culture, politics and social factors from the 1980s onwards. These new theoretical alignments in social anthropology also involved development studies. Today the anthropology of development has attained a degree of respectability vis-à-vis other branches of social science.
The course addresses the theoretical issue of modernities as a complex dimension of rural-urban change to stress a critical understanding of the empirical dimension of various types of interventions dealing with contemporary 'development-actualities'.
The course will explore the question: What does intervention mean for an anthropology of development? while critically asking to what extent social science should adopt a more applied or activist stance in addressing the growing inequities of present-day global development.
Seminal anthropological contributions orient students towards the understanding that theoretical and pragmatic social issues are closely intertwined. It is principally through detailed ethnography research that one grasps the full significance of processes of policy formulation, implementation and outcomes; the same applies to the complex interplay of 'local' or 'lay' versus 'scientific' knowledge, or to processes of commoditization and the creation of values.
This implies that an anthropology of development needs to draw on policy, science and economic concerns, but also on an understanding of peoples' local knowledge and livelihood practices underpinned by value commitments and pragmatic concerns. In other words researchers and practitioners and researchers must acquire a degree of self-reflection concerning the theoretical and practical grounding of intervention practices, as both types of activities are laden with evaluative judgments and decisions that often reveal their political and ideological stance.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of the course students are expected to be able to:
- demonstrate knowledge of anthropological theories and contemporary issues in the field of rural-urban development studies;
- apply and operationalize the Actor Oriented Approach to analytically engage with policy, cultural and social issues;
- analyse socio-cultural issues in the field of international development research.


The course duration is six weeks. Lectures are held in 2-hour sessions. The students will present and discuss the course literature and be encouraged to actively participate in the debates. Before the tutorial sessions students will provide a short summary with questions and 'new' propositions based on the literature they have reviewed. Where possible Guest speakers and video materials will be used to stimulate student learning and analytical capacities. This activity is supported by a one-day excursion.
In addition students will be required to organise themselves into working groups and participate in a problem-oriented workshop activity. Their assignment will be to select, discuss and analyse a case on rural transformation. Students will be encouraged to use anthropological concepts to investigate issues in rural development. For the purposes of organising the activities of the workshops, students will be provided with problem-oriented file-topics. To assess this activity, students will have to present a group report (20/25 pages) and organise a presentation during the last week of the course.


- written exam (50%);
- assignments and workshop sessions (25%);
- group presentation and collective report (15%);
- report on museum visit (10%);
All components need a minimum mark of 5.50 to pass.


A digital reader will be available on MyPortal.

Restricted Optional for: MIDInternational Development StudiesMScA: Sociology of Development5MO