SDC-32306 Anthropology and Development


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work3
Excursion (one day)7
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. R Fletcher
Lecturer(s)dr. S Hobbis
dr. SP Koot
dr. R Fletcher
Examiner(s)dr. R Fletcher
dr. SP Koot

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

RSO-34306 Theorizing Development: Implications for Research; SDC-32806 Sociology in Development: Towards a Critical Perspective

Continuation courses:

Major Thesis, MID.


This course starts by critically examining the contribution of social and political anthropology to the field of development studies. This methodological and theoretical background enables us to focus on, and reflexively make sense of the importance of the cultural, political and ideological factors that have shaped the thinking of development from the 1980s onwards. Special attention will be paid to recent theoretical contributions to the critique of ideology and to the construction of (collective) subjectivities. These contributions are important to understand current topics such as indigeneity, poor people's politics, land grabbing, corporate social responsibility, sustainable and eco-tourism, etc. We will also inquire into the current popularity of the anthropocene concept as a potential substitute of the sustainability concept.
The course addresses various theorisations of neoliberalism (as a global elite economic project, as a form of government, and as an ideological construct) to understand variations in policy regimes and planning approaches aimed at bridging the gap between imagined futures and development actualities.
The course will explore the question: How can critical anthropological theory help us to make sense of neoliberal modernisation processes and the (collective) responses they trigger? What is the social and political relevance of our theories? How can we create room for manoeuvre for reformist or activist intervention strategies in addressing the growing inequities of present-day global development?
Seminal anthropological works will be discussed to gain an understanding of the multiple and unexpected responses to development interventions. It is principally through detailed ethnography research that we can understand the full significance of the making and unmaking of development; the same applies to the complex interplay of 'local' or 'lay' versus 'scientific' knowledge, 'use value' versus 'commodity value', and the global marketing of development policies (micro-finance, cash transfer schemes, participatory budgeting).
This implies that an anthropology of development needs to draw on critical anthropological theory and ethnographic skills so as to gain an understanding of the world of policy on the one hand - the way they travel and re-signified in different contexts - and, on the other, the real world of development interventions and local responses to them. Only in this way we will be able to gain a theoretical understanding of the multifaceted character of development, as an ideological construct and as a set of governing mechanisms meant to make the future predictable.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- demonstrate knowledge of anthropological theories and key contemporary issues in the field of development studies;
- apply and operationalise classical Political Economy/Ecology perspectives and more recent theoretical approaches that pay special attention to ideology critique and the construction of (collective) subjectivities;
- analyse socio-cultural processes and their implications for 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 and presentation during the last week of the course.


- written exam (50%);
- written assignments (30%);
- group presentation (10%);
- report on museum visit (10%);
All components need a minimum mark of 5.50 to pass.


Course material will be available in Brightspace.

Restricted Optional for: MTOTourism, Society and EnvironmentMSc5MO
MIDInternational Development StudiesMScA: Spec. A - Sociology of Development5MO