AN436      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 MPA in European Public and Economic Policy, MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development (Management), MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Health, Community and Development, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies and MSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

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 seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to prepare discussion material for presentation in the seminars.

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, Discordant Development: Global Capitalism and the Struggle for Connection in Bangladesh (2012); K Gardner and D Lewis, Anthropology, Development and the Post-modern challenge (1996); 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 (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2012/13: 16

Average class size 2012/13: 9

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information