Knowledge, Power and Resistance (822L6D)

30 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Spring teaching

The purpose of this module 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 module 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 module 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. Then 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 module we shall pursue analyses of power and culture in relation to modernity. In week 7 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 8 and 9 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 8 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.

Teaching and assessment

We’re currently reviewing teaching and assessment of our modules in light of the COVID-19 situation. We’ll publish the latest information as soon as possible.

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 36 hours of contact time and about 264 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

This module is running in the academic year 2021/22. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. However, there may be changes to this module in response to COVID-19, or due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.

It may not be possible to take some module combinations due to timetabling constraints. The structure of some courses means that the modules you choose first may determine whether later modules are core or optional.