We are starting the 2019/2020 academic year with our course “Introduction to Development and Emergency” with Mbongeni Ngulube. Ngulube is an architect and urban designer with experience in informal settlements. He is currently and independent researcher in Social and Cultural Anthropology and an alumnus of our master program. His research focuses on the impact of diaspora networks, rural land tenure and political subjectivity and its impact on developmental processes and outcomes. His central argument in the course stems from this research under the title “Social System Capture” which is discussed on the final day.

This course seeks to outline a broad conceptual framework for the program and is an introduction to the critical thinking that forms the basis of the academic approach of the master program. It covers a brief introduction of the history, nature and process of research, its philosophical basis and the development of science, theory and research methodology. The central subjects – Development and Emergency – are then explored through the lenses of various disciplines including International Relations, Political Economy, Cultural studies and Anthropology. A critical view of Development through Post-Development Theory is another important aspect of the course.

In this first week of the 2019/2020 course, the students will be given a theoretical overview of the main topics of our program: Humanitarianism, Development, Emergency, Sustainability in Post-Disaster and Developmental contexts. Some of the issues our students will be discussing this week are:

– the challenges and debate around sustainable development in human settlement and general urban and rural upgrading.

– Political Economy and siting development and emergency within the broad framework of Neoliberal Capitalism

– development theory and practice since inception and prior, which includes debating the nature and outcome of development practice through an ethnographic lens with the aim of re-imagining ideas such as poverty, slums and their related upgrade procedures.

The course also includes an extensive bibliography for our students to browse. We asked Mbongeni Ngulube for some recommended reads on these topics. Here they are:

Escobar, A. (1995). Encountering Development: The making and unmaking of the Third World. 

How did the industrialized nations of North America and Europe come to be seen as the appropriate models for post-World War II societies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America? How did the postwar discourse on development actually create the so-called Third World? And what will happen when development ideology collapses? To answer these questions, Arturo Escobar shows how development policies became mechanisms of control that were just as pervasive and effective as their colonial counterparts. The development apparatus generated categories powerful enough to shape the thinking even of its occasional critics while poverty and hunger became widespread. “Development” was not even partially “deconstructed” until the 1980s, when new tools for analyzing the representation of social reality were applied to specific “Third World” cases. Here Escobar deploys these new techniques in a provocative analysis of development discourse and practice in general, concluding with a discussion of alternative visions for a postdevelopment era.

Li, T. M. (2007). The Will to Improve. Government, Development, and the Practice of Politics.

The Will to Improve is a remarkable account of development in action. Focusing on attempts to improve landscapes and livelihoods in Indonesia, Tania Murray Li carefully exposes the practices that enable experts to diagnose problems and devise interventions, and the agency of people whose conduct is targeted for reform. Deftly integrating theory, ethnography, and history, she illuminates the work of colonial officials and missionaries; specialists in agriculture, hygiene, and credit; and political activists with their own schemes for guiding villagers toward better ways of life. She examines donor-funded initiatives that seek to integrate conservation with development through the participation of communities, and a one-billion-dollar program designed by the World Bank to optimize the social capital of villagers, inculcate new habits of competition and choice, and remake society from the bottom up.

Rist, G. (2008). The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith.

In this landmark text, Gilbert Rist provides a comprehensive and compelling overview of what the idea of development has meant throughout history. He traces it from its origins in the Western view of history, through the early stages of the world system, the rise of US hegemony, and the supposed triumph of third-worldism, through to new concerns about the environment and globalization. Assessing possible postdevelopment models and considering the ecological dimensions of development, Rist contemplates the ways forward. Throughout, he argues persuasively that development has been no more than a collective delusion, which in reality has resulted only in widening market relations, whatever the intentions of its advocates.

Kothari, U. (2005b). From Colonial Administration to Development Studies: A Post-Colonial Critique of the History of Development Studies. In U. Kothari (Ed.), A Radical History of Development Studies: Individuals, Institutions and Ideologies (pp. 47-66). 

A Radical History of Development Studies traces the history of the subject from the late colonial period all the way through to contemporary focus on poverty reduction. In this now classic genealogy of development, the authors look at the contested evolution and roles of development institutions and explore changes in development discourses. Combining personal and institutional reflections with an examination of key themes, including gender and development, NGOs, and natural resource management, A Radical History of Development Studies challenges mainstream development theory and practice and highlights concealed, critical discourses that have been written out of conventional stories of development. The volume is intended to stimulate thinking on future directions for the discipline. It also provides an indispensable resource for students coming to grips with the historical continuities and divergences in the theory and practice of development.

Feature Image: Soweto, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa; Bernard Dupont (Creative Commons Licensed)

Other Images: Mohamed (Gad) Abdelmoneim

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