For some scholars (such as the Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen), international development offers the promise of freedom for the world’s poor; while for others, ‘development’ represents nothing short of a new form of Western domination over the so-called Third World. During this course we aim to explore this controversial subject from two complementary viewpoints. On the one hand we consider the development process from the perspective of Development Studies, a relatively new academic discipline that emerged during the post-war period. Development Studies applies an interdisciplinary approach in addressing the socio-economic challenges facing countries of the ‘Third World’. Simultaneously, the course also addresses the dynamics of development from an anthropological perspective. With its focus on long-term fieldwork and participant observation, anthropology offers unique insight into the development encounter. Through our close consideration of international development we aim to balance the practice of development with theories of development, and the applications of development with its critiques. In the end, ‘development’ emerges as a proactive attempt to confront the challenges of global poverty, but it is also revealed as an international problematic of great significance and (sometimes negative) influence.



The Development Encounter is divided into three parts. In Part One of the course, we introduce our topic of study by reviewing our two cross-cutting themes. We ask: What is anthropology? What is development? And, in what ways do anthropology and development intersect? In Part Two of the course, we focus in on the history of development through an examination of some of the main theories of development. Students consider modernization theory, dependency theory, participatory development, and the post-structuralist critique of development. These theories and the anthropological critique of each respective approach to development sets the foundation for the final part of the course. In Part Three, students apply anthropological perspectives in an examination of practical development topics via an individual research project of their choice.



The course utilizes three main texts and a variety of additional scholarly readings. The book by Katy Gardner and David Lewis offers a clear and extended overview of anthropology and development, both in its applied and theoretical contexts. In addition, the book provides a great number of practical examples of development initiatives and problems. Our two other main texts illustrate competing anthropological approaches to development. Emma Crewe and Elizabeth Harrison offer us an ‘ethnography of aid’ based on their work with international organizations in Asia and Africa. In the process, they examine issues relating to gender, technology, culture, and partnership by analysing the interaction between ‘the developers’ and their so-called beneficiaries. Arturo Escobar’s account of development presents us with something quite different. His radical critique forces us to question the aims and outcomes of ‘development’. He argues that development policies not only control, but also make, the ‘Third World’. Finally, a host of additional scholarly articles, case studies, development reports, book chapters, and media clippings (available in libraries or through Utrecht University's online journal subscription) serve to illustrate, explain and analyse key issues and debates in anthropology and/of development.