MC421      Half Unit
Critical Approaches to Media, Communication and Development

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Shakuntala Banaji


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Media, Communication and Development. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The content of the course addresses the history of and tensions between 'media for development' and 'communication for development', while challenging mainstream development perspectives on aid, modernisation, and the role of ICTs and media and communication in low income countries and unequal social contexts. It achieves this aim by emphasising the conflictual relationships between economic and political power structures and the empowerment of individuals, as well as among collective groupings within their local and regional contexts. In particular, paying attention to issues of history, colonisation, race and gender, this course questions who constructs knowledge and how knowledge is constructed in modernisation approaches to Media, Communication and Development. It explores the ways in which the concepts of ideology, discourse, orientalism, reflexivity and power can enable a critical understanding of social life, participation and change in the global south. The course also offers a sharp critique of scholarly and policy oriented literature that regards the media, information, and communication strategies, and information and communication technology applications, as obvious direct means of alleviating poverty, improving health outcomes and fostering democracy and human rights in low-income countries. It offers alternative theorisations of the contested way in which developments in these areas become embedded in the cultural and social fabric, especially where injustice, poverty and unequal power relations influence the capacities of individuals to make changes in their lives and communities.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars and a film screening totalling a minimum of 33 hours across Michelmas Term and 1 hour in Summer Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures and in-person classes/classes delivered online. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of term..

Formative coursework

All students are expected to complete advance reading, participate in case studies and discussions on moodle forums, prepare seminar presentations, organise and attend practitioner seminars and film/documentary viewings and submit one essay of 1,500 words.

Indicative reading

  • Abrahamson, R. (2000) Disciplining Democracy: Development Discourse and Good Governance in Africa. London, Zed Books.
  • Banaji, S. (2016). Children and Media in India: Narratives of Class, Agency and Social Change. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Enghel, F. and Noske-Turner, J. (2018) Communication for International Development: Doing Good or Looking Good? London & New York: Routledge.
  • Escobar, A. (2011) Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton USA: Princeton University Press.
  • Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, New York: Continuum.
  • Galeano, E. (1973). Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. New York and London: Monthly Review Press.
  • Grewal, I. and Kaplan, C. (eds) (1994) Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and transnational feminist practices. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Hall, S (ed.) (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications.
  • Hartman, S. V. (1997) Scenes of Subjection: Terror, slavery and self-making in nineteenth century America. Oxford: OUP.
  • Hayter, T. (1971). Aid as Imperialism. London: Pelican.
  • Hemer, O. and Tufte, T. (eds) (2005) Media and Global Change: Rethinking Communication for Development, Clacso and Nordicom.
  • Hill Collins, P & Bilge, S. (2020, 2nd Edition) Intersectionality. Cambridge and Medford MA: Polity.
  • International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems. (2004) One World: Communication and Society, Today and Tomorrow; Towards a New More Just and More Efficient World information and communication order, London, New York and Paris: UNESCO and Roman & Littlefield.
  • Katz, C. (2004) Growing Up Global: Economic Restructuring and Children's Everyday Lives. Mineapolis and London: University of Minessota Press.
  • Kapoor, I. (2008) The Postcolonial Politics of Development, London and New York: Routledge.
  • Mama, A. (1995) Beyond the Masks: Race, Gender and Subjectivity. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Manyozo, L. (2012) Media, Communication and Development: Three Approaches, New Delhi, India SAGE Publications.
  • Melkote, S. and Steeves, H. L. (2001) Communication for Development in the Third World: Theory and practice for empowerment, New Delhi and Thousand Oaks CA: Sage.
  • Nishime, L. & Hester Williams, K. D. (Eds) (2018) Racial Ecologies.Washington: University of Washington Press.
  • Noble, S. (2018) Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York: New York University Press.
  • Quebral, N. (1988) Development Communication, Laguna: UPLB College of Agriculture.
  • Rodriguez, C. (2011) Citizens media against armed conflict. Minnesota: Minnesota University Press.
  • Scott, M. (2014) Media and Development. London: Zed Books.
  • Said, E. (1979) Orientalism. New York: Vintage.
  • Servaes, J (ed.) (2008) Communication for Development and Social Change. New Delhi, Thousand Oaks, CA and Singapore: Sage.
  • Singhal, A. and Rogers, E. (1999) Entertainment-Education: A Communication Strategy for Social Change. Malden, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


Take-home assessment (100%) in the ST.

This is a seen examination, and the questions are made available to students seven days prior to the submission.

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

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 44.7
Merit 52.1
Pass 2.1
Fail 1.1

Teachers' comment

Via questions about history, power, representation and knowledge, this course challenges modernisation perspectives on the use of media and communication for development in the global south. 

Students' comments 

"This brilliant and insightful course challenged me to think deeply about the connections between participation and modernisation approaches to improving living conditions in the global south."

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: Media & Communications

Total students 2020/21: 42

Average class size 2020/21: 10

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills