GY309      Half Unit
The Political Geography of Development

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Camilla Royle


This course is available on the BA in Geography, BSc in Economic History and Geography, BSc in Environment and Development, BSc in Environmental Policy with Economics and BSc in Geography with Economics. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course offers a critical analysis of the politics of contemporary development processes and the geopolitical interests that influence them. The course considers development as both practical pursuit and as a series of discourses and representations. The course examines topics including Critical Approaches to Development; Histories of Development and Geopolitics (Cold War through Neoliberal Contexts); 9/11 and the Security-Development Nexus; Informality; Resource Extraction; Illicit Trade; Violence; and New Geopolitical Landscapes (China and South-South Ties).  The course will examine these themes with special attention to African contexts.


In the Department of Geography and Environment, teaching will be delivered through a combination of classes/seminars, pre-recorded lectures, live online lectures, in-person lectures and other supplementary interactive live activities.

This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures across Lent Term.

This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce one formative essay plan in the Lent Term.

Indicative reading

A comprehensive reading list will be provided during the course.  Recommended readings include:

  • Chant, S.; McIlawine, C., 2009. Geographies of Development in the 21st Century. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.
  • Feldman, S.; Geisler, C.; and Menon, G., 2011. Accumulating Insecurity: Violence and Dispossession in the Making of Everyday Life.  Georgia: University of Georgia press.
  • Gregory, D., 2004. The colonial present: Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Kapoor, I., 2008. The postcolonial politics of development. London: Routledge
  • Mercille, J., 2011. Violent narco-cartels or US hegemony? The political economy of the ‘war on drugs’ in Mexico. Third World Quarterly 32(9), pp.1637-1653.
  • Onslow, S., 2009. Cold War in Southern Africa: White Power, Black Liberation. Oxon: Routledge.
  • Power, M., 2018. Geopolitics and development. London: Routledge;
  • Said, E., 2003. Orientalism. UK: Penguin.
  • Watts, Michael.  2006.  “Empire of Oil: Capitalist Dispossession and the Scramble for Africa.”  Monthly Review 58(4): 1-17.
  • Wright, M., 2011. Necropolitics, Narcopolitics, and Femicide: Gendered Violence on the Mexico-U.S. Border. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 36(3), pp. 707-731.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2018/19 - 2020/21 combined)

Classification % of students
First 34.3
2:1 52.9
2:2 10.8
Third 0
Fail 2

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2020/21: 51

Average class size 2020/21: 18

Capped 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills