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 SSC 232 - The Development Encounter: Anthropological Perspectives


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 a number of practical development topics: gender and the household, indigenous rights and Fourth World peoples, dams and resettlement, and sustainable development and the environment.


Dr. John Friedman​ 





One of the following is required in order to take this course:

  • SSC 111 Introduction to Sociology
  • SSC 131 Introduction to Socio-Cultural Anthropology
  • SSC 141 Introduction to Human Geography
  • SSC 160 Introduction to Economics
  • Any 200- or 300-level Anthropology course
  • Permission from the instructor