AN237      Half Unit
The Anthropology of Development

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Deborah James


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law, BA in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Undergraduates taking this course should have completed an introductory course in anthropology unless granted exemption by the course teacher.

Course content

This course considers a range of contributions made by anthropologists to the analysis of development. It assesses the reconcilability of two divergent perspectives: development anthropology, with its corpus of writings by practitioners working on practical projects, and the 'anthropology of development', comprising a series of critiques of development theory and practice by anthropologists. It examines the historical background, showing how development and its discourses were made in the wake of the colonial encounter and exploring the role played by anthropologists in this process. Critiques of both state-planned and market-driven development are considered and weighed against the ethnographic evidence, and anthropological studies of development organisations, institutions and 'the aid industry' considered. The anthropology of planning and policy; actor-centred perspectives on development; NGOs and participatory approaches; microcredit and gender; and religion and development, are among the topics explored. Regional ethnographies used include those from various parts of Southern and West Africa, China, Latin America, South and South-East Asia.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to prepare discussion material for presentation in the classes. A coursework mark will be assigned on the basis of oral and written presentations. Anthropology students taking this course will have an opportunity to submit a tutorial essay for this course to their personal tutors. For non-Anthropology students taking this course, a formative essay may be submitted to the course teacher.

Indicative reading

F Cooper and R Packard (Eds), International Development and the Social Sciences (1997); A Escobar, Encountering Development: the making and unmaking of the third world (1995); J Ferguson, The Anti-politics machine "Development", depoliticization and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (1994); D Freeman (ed), Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs and Social Change in Africa (2012); K Gardner and D Lewis, Anthropology, Development and the Post-modern challenge (1996); K Gardner, Discordant Development: Global Capitalism and the Struggle for Connection in Bangladesh (2012); R D Grillo and R L Stirrat, Discourses of Development: anthropological perspectives, Berg, Oxford; S Gudeman, The Anthropology of Economy (2001) Oxford, Blackwells; N Long, Development Sociology: Actor Perspectives (2001), London, Routledge; D Mosse, Cultivating Development: an ethnography of aid policy and practice (2004), London, Pluto Press; J Rapley, Understanding Development: Theory and Practice in the Third World (1996); A F Lynne Reiner Robertson, People and the State: an anthropology of planned development (1984), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press; A Shah, In the Shadows of the State: Indigenous Politics, Environmentalism, and Insurgency in Jharkhand, India (2010). Detailed reading lists are provided at the beginning of the course.


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (20%, 2000 words) and presentation (10%) in the MT.

Students who do not give a presentation will receive a mark of 0 (incomplete). The written essay will be on the topic covered in the presentation.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2012/13: 28

Average class size 2012/13: 14

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information