International development

Social Change, Culture and Development

Module code: L2107N
Level 5
15 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Essay, Coursework

This module starts from the observation that development is more than economic change and involves important social and cultural aspects. It begins with an interrogation of the way development practices and ideas are embedded in cultural contexts, and specifically how the development industry is historically and culturally entangled in Western conceptions of progress, rationality, and the individual. Against a view of culture as 'tradition' and an impediment to development we will examine different cultural conceptions of progress. This involves both alternate visions of future development as well as the negative impacts that development policies and interventions have on local people, communities and cultures. Questions of power and cultural relativism inevitably arise: what happens when different interests and commitments collide, and who or what determines the module development interventions take?

Module learning outcomes

  • To demonstrate an awareness of different theoretical approaches to culture.
  • To summarise the basic debates over the relationship between development, modernisation and social and cultural change.
  • To apply theoretical insights to the evaluation of the relative strengths and weaknesses of different forms of development policy and intervention
  • To apply an anthropologically critical perspective to accounts of development intervention and social change.