School of Global Studies

Knowledge, Power and Resistance (822L6)

Knowledge, Power and Resistance

Module 822L6

Module details for 2017/18.

30 credits

FHEQ Level 7 (Masters)

Module Outline

The purpose of this course is to reflect on the various ways in which power and knowledge interact within contexts of development and economic change. Whilst providing you with the conceptual apparatus to theorise notions of discourse, power and resistance, much of the course will deal with the historically and culturally contingent nature of the various meanings given to 'development', 'modernity' and 'tradition', and how these are in turn linked to different forms of knowledge. As the course will show, narratives and counter narratives of development are not only produced by the developers and 'developees', but also by those studying them. They are also inextricable from relations of power.

The first part of the course engages with the theoretical framework provided by the concepts of ideology, hegemony and discourse, looking at the work of Gramsci and Foucault in week 2. In the following week we will consider the implications of concepts from these thinkers in analyses of development, particularly discourse theory. We shall then move on to consider the concept of resistance and what it means for development practice. In weeks 5 and 6 we consider two cases. First is the domain of developmental knowledge 'women in development', and we look at ways it has been contested both by activists and academics. In week 6 we turn to the environment and consider the role of anthropologists who refuse to take for granted categories such as 'indigenous knowledge'.

In the latter part of the course we shall pursue analyses of power and culture in relation to modernity. In week seven we critically assess bureaucracies, governance, and work on neoliberal ideas of freedom, power and knowledge in the production of policy and bureaucratic structures. We will explore how Foucault's later work directs anthropological attention to the production of the self within development projects.

In weeks eight and nine, we consider in more detail how different forms of knowledge, power and culture interrelate within contexts of colonial and post-colonial intervention and development. Just as these are highly complex, so too are the reactions of the subjects of the developmental gaze, who have their own versions of modernity and development. In week eight we consider the various ways in which local people imagine and represent development and modernity. In week 9 we will evaluate the benefits of an 'actor network' approach to development, and how it might take us beyond a focus on 'discourse'. As we will see, the discourse of development is itself far from static or monolithic.

Module learning outcomes

Develop theoretical understanding of Weberian and Marxist approaches to power

Explore and analyse power in relation to knowledge and resistance

Demonstrate critical awareness of how key concepts like ideology, discourse, governance and resistance are applicable in development theory

Use concepts related to power to analyse and critically assess development practices

Essay (5000 words)End of Year Assessment Week 3 Wed 16:00100.00%

Submission deadlines may vary for different types of assignment/groups of students.


Coursework components (if listed) total 100% of the overall coursework weighting value.

TermMethodDurationWeek pattern
Spring SemesterSeminar3 hours111111111111

How to read the week pattern

The numbers indicate the weeks of the term and how many events take place each week.

Miss Emilia Roycroft

Assess convenor

Prof Gurminder Bhambra


Dr Geert De Neve

Assess convenor

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